Costs of the drug war: A new series

As of February 25, 2017 nearly 50% of the prisoners in the Federal Prison system were doing time for drug offenses.  81,813 prisoner.

The percentage is likely quite a bit higher than that, because many drug addicts end up in prison on different charges altogether, burglary, larceny, and property offenses, for instance.

While it does not appear that the Bureau of Prisons has released its costs for the 2016 Fiscal Year at this time, in 2015 it cost an average of $31,997 per year to keep  someone in the prison system (total daily cost and support cost).

For the people housed in Federal Prisons due to drug charges, that was $3 billion spent in 2015 alone. That’s just the tip of the iceberg: the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report in December 2016 which showed that across the country:

3,789,000 people on probation

870,500 people on parole

728,200 people in local jails

1,526,800 people in state and federal prisons.

I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but believe me, I’m going to start looking. All I will say right now is that is a huge amount of money being spent rather needlessly.

VP Mike Pence either issued an empty threat, or else…

Today, Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea against further provocations that might “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region”, citing the recent U.S. attacks against targets in Syria and Afghanistan as examples of our new administrations toughness.

This is horrifying. Or it should be.

In Afghanistan, we recently dropped a single (albeit, quite large) bomb on insurgent forces who have almost no means to projecting force against anything of value to us, while in Syria, we launched a more diverse strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles against a single target. And, as in Afghanistan, Syria is more or less incapable of sustained attacks against us or our allies.

Not saying that Israel isn’t a U.S. ally, but because their military forces would overwhelm Syria’s, they are borderline immune to Syrian reprisals.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is vastly different.

We can’t drop a single 15,000lb bomb on a North Korean target, sit back and pat ourselves on the back. Nor can we launch a few cruise missiles into the DPRK and exclaim how we offered a show of force.

Either of those scenarios would lead to instant reprisal against our allies, South Korea and Japan. Afterall, the north has an estimated 13,000 pieces of artillery positioned along their southern border, along with missiles capable of reaching Japan.

There shouldn’t be any need to speculate about the consequences of either or both of those actions – it should be clear that the results of any strike against the North create a cascade of events that would be catastrophic to all – South Korea, Japan, China, and we can’t forget the people who continue to suffer under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.

I only hope that cooler heads in the Administration prevail upon our President and Vice President to not chalk up their recent “successes” in Syria and Afghanistan as reason to rattle their sabres toward a country who’s guns are pointed outwards and whose leadership has everything to lose if they DON’T respond to a provocation.