Victimless Crimes?

An acquaintance of mine buried his son today. No official cause of death has been released to verified media, but if social media is accurate, then this young man died because he took oxycontin that had been laced with fentanyl. He was 21 years old. My heart breaks for his family. If you’re a student of mine, I beg you: don’t use illegal drugs.

My acquaintance’s son should not have taken an illegal drug. One could argue that the young man was the criminal as well as the victim. However, if you count him as a criminal, then he should not be the only one who pays for his crime. Each person who played a role in this tragedy, from the people who manufactured the drug to the network of people who worked together to deliver it to him, has his blood on their hands.

Cases like this justify the hesitance of cultural conservatives to treat drug crimes as victimless crimes or as worthy of lower levels of prosecution because they are “nonviolent.” Nobody wants addicts to rot in jail for decades for misdemeanor possession charges, or to be denied adequate treatment while incarcerated. Whether you’re talking about a drug lord who cuts fentanyl into cocaine to maximize profit, or a junkie who shoplifts to offset the cost of his habit, you’re talking about people who make life more dangerous and expensive for the rest of us.

Of course, lots of uncaught “criminals” make life expensive for the rest of us: people who don’t pay their taxes, or purchase automobile insurance, or make sure that their children are properly vaccinated before sending them to school, offer case studies in selfishness.

But drug crimes, because their tentacles reach so far into so many facets of so many lives, seem particularly sensitive. What policies should the state adopt that would address these problems in a just and compassionate manner? How should the state balance treatment and punishment?

What must we do to prevent more graveside services like the one today?

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21 Responses to Victimless Crimes?

  1. Bill Arnoldus says:

    The United States should slowly adopt a system of harm reduction like that of Switzerland. Instead of a gun’s blazin’ approach to eliminate the production of drugs, perhaps a more careful, thought out solution pertaining to the supply of the drugs would prove to be more effective. There will always be a demand for drugs and that will hardly change, but if the United States was the supplier of opium and other drugs, then the risk of death and crime related to drugs could diminish as seen in Switzerland. This could be done through the legal injection of opium in designated facilities. This would take opium users off of the streets and stop unsafe practices like sharing needles, overdosing, crime and the spread of HIV.

  2. Vishnu Gadepalli says:

    Drug related crimes lead to extremely tragic outcomes. The person on either side of the transaction is going to end up either dead, in prison, and/or terminally messed up; so it is a lose-lose scenario. A policy that could be adopted to mitigate these problems would be to decriminalize drugs so that the focus is on rehabilitation rather than punishment for crimes like this. The goal is to mold people so that they are contributing members to society, and by them simply rotting in a prison cell, that is not being accomplished. Don’t get me wrong — punishment serves as a deterrent, but at a point the addicts need to be fixed. There need to be more resources for these people who are struggling with drug addictions. Yes, there are already resources, but they need to be more readily available. By making them less intimidating, more addicts will come to them for help because they won’t have to worry about getting in trouble.

  3. Jeremiah McClain says:

    I believe that this case can be lead to a long standing saying among “nonconformists”: rules are meant to be broken. So therefore, if more policies are introduced, I’m afraid that the crime rate will actually go up because of an individual’s intent to break the rules.The best we can do is to teach our children the consequences of such and hope that their morals will follow them as adults.

  4. Kareena Patel says:

    I am not sure if placing another policy on this matter would help prevent drug use. As Jeremiah said, an additional rule would essentially be looked over and broken by those who already participate in such activities. If one already breaks the current rules and laws regarding illegal drug use, what is going to stop them from breaking another rule? I believe it all comes down to one thing: the aftermath. Everyone knows what the consequence of doing drugs is; therefore, it is up to the person to decide whether they want to do it or not. At this point, we can only hope that each person decides to make the right decision and consider the damage that comes with drugs.

  5. James says:

    The constant issue of drugs in our society is to blame for these frequent overdoses. Drug culture in modern media, as well as drugs being seen as romantic, or as the part of the party lifestyle. This leads to addiction. We need to attack the root of the problem, by teaching children and parents more than we do. Early exposure to drugs leads to a higher chance of becoming addicted. Unless we can figure out how to attack the root, we will continue to have these funerals.

  6. I think the best thing we can do is inform kids about the risks associated with taking illegal drugs by letting them hear it from 1st hand users rather than teachers and cops. While at the same time understanding that so many of these cases of young people getting their lives taken by drugs are a product of desperation. Whether it be desperation to fit in, to feel a certain way, or to feed their family. At the end of the day, there’s always going to be peer pressure to do things you shouldn’t, and unfortunate times that force people to re-evaluate their morals and do uncomfortable things to make ends meet. The most we can do is inform, and let people make their own calculated decisions.

    It’s tricky though because the ones that are the most likely to fall victim to illegal substances are the ones who have family members that are users. How does someone who sees the effects of drugs personally still give in to the temptation? I think it goes back to desperation. I’ve witnessed the feeling of others feeling trapped in that way of life and resorting to drugs as a way to cope. Thinking that there’s no way out when in reality they have so many more options than they realize. It all comes back to being informed on not just the effects of drugs, but truly realizing that people today have way more opportunities than anybody else in history to achieve what they want.

  7. Laya Karavadi says:

    I believe that Hollywood is influencing young teenagers to think that drugs are just a little thing that you can take and oh my goodness your vision is all wonky and you get all giggly. Movies and TV shows directed toward young adults over-romanticize drug usage to the point where these minors are making life-changing decisions for themselves. For those that have already started and have been convicted, it is honestly such a slippery slope. Once you’ve gotten onto it, it is hard to get off, your life is never the same. You are either going to be messed up for life and free, or the same but just in jail. This is also true for the dealers. I just believe that trying to start small for younger kids is important to prevent it from happening, but I also completely understand that there are just kids that are in another situation where they were just born into. It is just as much the person’s fault as well as the government’s. Some people cannot escape that life, and they have no aid from anyone. If everyone starts blaming only the person taking the drugs, there is no way that they will try to get treatment. Judgment will go nowhere, resources and helpful and honest interventions will at least start somewhere.

  8. Hong Zheng says:

    There are consequences out there for drug usage and plenty of anti-drug posters that are plastered against school walls. Then why are overdose cases all over the newspaper and how are nearly all high schoolers so familiar with drugs. Even with so many laws and sayings against drugs, people take drugs regardless. Because of this, I think that more laws directly against drugs would be pointless because students and adults are already breaking the law. I think we need to focus more on why people take drugs. People take drugs because of the relief and pleasure it brings them. People are told that they have to become something great in life. That pressure eventually becomes too great and leads to drug usage. I think we need to think more about the well-being of people’s mental state instead of taking away the only item of relief for people.

  9. Christina Zhang says:

    Putting more legal restrictions on drug usage would not benefit any member of society. To really minimize drug usage and the detrimental effects of such, drugs should be decriminalized and fully legalized. Prohibiting drug usage in no way eliminates the market for drugs, as we see today, there are still many people willing to go the extreme to get ahold of drugs that are prohibited by the law; this only maximizes the potential for violence, health risks, and corruption. All citizens should have the liberty to determine their own well-being, and drug addicts should live knowing that they can ask for help without being penalized.

  10. Jenna De Ochoa says:

    Drugs are a road that only leads to tragedy. In order to combat this rising problem, I think that the government should implement better programs aimed at high school students in order to stop drug abuse at the root. Many teenagers begin abusing drugs and never stop. High school programs could deter future drug abusers and assist current drug abusers that have already fallen victim. With effective rehab and informational seminars, I think that teenagers could begin receiving reliable help when immediately presented with a drug-related problem. Additionally, households known to have drug-related issues should not be able to house children. By growing up surrounded by drugs, children are more likely to experiment with substances at a younger age. Therefore, stricter protocols should be put in place when parents struggle with drug addiction.

  11. The drug epidemic can be tracked over a long period of time. Over time, the number of deaths due to overdose seems to be rising. Mental health issues are closely linked to the cause of addiction. Increasing or decreasing the availability to create a safer country will have a large impact, but I believe focusing on mental health awareness will also create change. People do not simply begin doing heroin one day out of the blue. Many have discussed the valuable outcomes of making drugs more unrestricted for safety, and I agree that many people get into detrimental addiction by unknowingly being laced with more intense drugs than first believed. I also think that this exposure and normalizing of drug use issues would create less desire in young people to think of drugs as a forbidden substance that makes them “cool” and encourage others to reach out for help without fear of being put behind bars.

  12. Jonathan Kiesel says:

    Causality and blame, as they are weirdly defined, are often used inconsistently. If you continued on with this line of people who contributed towards these ‘victimless’ crimes, you’d reach absurdly extreme conclusions, such as the mother of a drug lord being partly responsible for multiple drug deaths. You can make a chain of causality connecting both ends, starting from the mother giving birth to the drug lord himself, and then after some exchange hand-offs, people die. Of course, this example is not ideal by any means, but my point is that I don’t think causality is a transitive relation, that the formermost cause to a cause of a cause is the cause of final result: A -> B -> C, but not A -> C. In other words, people who directly cause these ‘victimless’ crimes are the only ones to be considered in this moral dilemma. It’s also possible that someone else could force another person to consume an illegal drug, but that’s wrong for a reason different from drugs themselves, which is coercion.

    Nevertheless, as soon as something could be used in a way that’s unintended by its design, there needs to be a way to prevent that kind of use. Overdosing on medical drugs is an obvious case of this idea, so to prevent this, have someone else help you in consuming them responsibly or have them contained with some sort of time-lock on them. There can be multiple solutions to every problem, and this is why we work together on finding the best ones. I think Vishnu’s solution of rehabiliting drug addicts is rooted in the best of ideas, but in the case that rehabilitation doesn’t work the first time for some people, then we’ll have to get creative on how we could use them to track drug lords, aside from the death penalty. I think most of the overall solution relies more on prevention than rehabilitation simply because of the fact that some crimes cannot be reversed.

  13. Arika Gardner says:

    Another law would not do anything to stop drug usage among teens and young adults. As a person who lives in a low-income neighborhood where many of my own former classmates abuse drugs, no amount of rules will stop them from using non-medicinal drugs. They should instead find more ways to treat those with drug addicts because it is clear that rehab is not as effective as some may think. Many tend to relapse when their, “treatment” is finished. Instead of finding the nearest drug addict and incarcerating them, find the people who sell and make these drugs. They are the reason drug addicts can fuel their addiction. Taking down the provider will slow down the availability of said drug to young people. If they can’t obtain the drug, they can’t indulge in it. We should put more of an emphasis on mental health, rather than the on going ” Drugs are bad so don’t do them” trope. Depression and trauma can cause a person to turn to drugs for an escape. Opening up non-lethal and safe escapes for these people can in turn possibly lower drug usage.

  14. I think that jailing individuals for drug abuse is not the answer. While prison is meant to serve as a punishment and for rehabilitation, it rarely helps a criminal, and most convicts quickly fall back into crime. Through careful therapy, I believe that drug abusers could abandon their detrimental habits. Therapy can provide a pathway for recovery instead of punishing an individual for addiction. An addiction can override a person’s moral integrity and cause them to leave their beliefs. Jail does not help a lost individual; it inhibits them from finding proper assistance. Additionally, mental illness is often the starting pressure that leads to a life of drug abuse. Addicted individuals may reach out to artificial serotonin when left without help. Therapy could assist with any mental illnesses and trauma affecting an individual. Jail is not the answer for drug abusers, but therapy could provide a valuable option for any drug-related criminal.

  15. Jeremy Dawe says:

    The current strategies that the US employs for fighting victimless crime focus on reducing the supply. Rather then decreasing the amount of drugs available, this has just led to the lack of regulation. Rehabilitation programs have been shown as the most effective ways to decrease drug usage. Making something illegal fails to prevent the use of it, as seen in the prohibition. Increasing practices in which people can decrease addiction, or tend to it, such as those that Vishnu and Bill described are the best ways to combat victimless crime.

  16. Nicholas Popescu says:

    Letting drug addicts and suppliers sit in jail is not doing our society any good and, if anything is wasting tax dollars. Such dollars could have instead been spent on rehabilitation programs to break out of addiction and prison cycles. Furthermore, regulations on drug usage are only adding to the materials wasted and lives spent trying to maintain the wellbeing of our nation. A loose drug policy will allow for less focus on persecution and more on informed drug usage. Unfortunately, the reckless and biased drug policies still instituted today are taking a toll on the American population.

  17. Andrew Liu says:

    Drug addiction and drug related crime are an extremely unfortunate reality for our society. Millions of people in the United States struggle with drug related crime and abuse. Laws directly pointed towards punishing drug abusers or stopping the spread of drugs would not serve the purpose they seek to pursue. I know that at my home school, a considerable percentage of students abused drugs. They simply chose not to follow rules against drug use. Because of this, more laws regarding the issue would not change the people who already do drugs. I think that instead, rehabilitation and other therapy should be more heavily emphasized, since these drugs are usually used as an escape from their life struggles. Putting these people into jail would not solve the issue of drug abuse, rather, it would just prolong the person’s pain. Perhaps, if people were taught at a younger age, where they are more impressionable, of the dangers and tragedy of drug abuse and misuse, the rate of these tragedies would decline significantly.

  18. Claire Ellison says:

    Enforcing stricter rules will not help with the drugs crisis. As seen with outlawing alcohol in our history, it only caused more organized crime. Drugs have become too powerful in our society and our system to corrupt to be easily removed through laws. I believe that anyone manufacturing it or selling drugs should get sent to jail. However, addicts should be able to receive help without punishments. People at the top of the chain are willing to hurt people to receive money, but addicts usually have no malicious intent towards others because of addiction.

  19. Everett "CJ" Mason, Jr. says:

    Although advances are currently being paid, more awareness about drug addiction and its consequences needs to be brought to both children and adults. First-hand experiences from those who have faced serious consequences often tend to be the most impactful, and lectures by teachers and cops are simply not as effective as they might have once been. Furthermore, the drug culture on social media today also does not help – I often will just be going through my social media and see someone advertising or smoking some drug. Drug abuse and crimes are constantly on the rise, and the United States needs to do more to stop these crimes rather than just taking a guns-a-blazing approach to stopping these crimes.

  20. Sephora Poteau says:

    Treatment and containment of drugs is important for the safety of future generations of people. They have a major impact on the lives of these people and the intense demonization of people that use these drugs by the media is clearly not effective in helping those who are already affected by their outcomes. I believe that the government should be held accountable for this hurt that they have caused on communities deeply scarred by intense drug use. Programs that incentivize compassion towards those who are addicts instead of turning addicts into someone to ostracize would be more wise than their blatant discrimination.

  21. Gordon Welch says:

    While I agree that drug addicts deserve therapy and not jail, something needs to be done to the suppliers. If people who create and exchange that drugs aren’t punished, then this problem will continue. Start from the root of the problem, and then work your way up. If suppliers know that they will face incredible punishments for drug exchanges, then drug exchanges will slow to a halt. The State shouldn’t end these people’s lives, but a couple of months in jail and therapy should do the trick. While some will think this is harsh since suppliers don’t intend for the crime to happen, it has to be done. Too many lives are lost every year to drugs. My brother is in the 8th grade, and I’ve heard him talk about a girl who overdosed at his school. If people in junior high are affected by this problem, then change is a must.

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