Thanks for the recommendation!
I found this:
How We Misunderstand Mass Incarceration
Reformers are famously prey to the fanaticism of reform. A sense of indignation and a good cause lead first to moral…
What’s more, many of the drug convictions were meant to be what Pfaff calls “pretextual attacks on violence.” Violent crimes that are associated with drug dealing are more difficult to prosecute than drug offenses themselves, which usually involve hard evidence rather than the testimony of witnesses. This argument sets off some suspicious-skeptical alarms, since it seems cousin to the idea that we might as well lock ’em up for drugs as for anything else, since, if we didn’t, “they” would be committing violent offenses anyway. “It is, of course, completely fair to debate the morality . . . of using drug charges to tackle underlying violence,” Pfaff observes, to his credit. He accepts that “blacks are systematically denied access to the more successful paths to economic stability,” and therefore “face systematically greater pressure to turn to other alternatives.” But he also makes a more complicated argument, following recent sociological research: it’s not that the prohibition of drugs attracts crime, which then produces violence; it’s that violence thrives among young men deprived of a faith in their own upward mobility, making drug dealing an attractive business. In plain English, young men without a way out of poverty turn to gangs, and gangs always turn to violence.
Presuming this is a good summary of his position, I think he’s really just trying to unpack the causality of the thing, and possibly point the causal arrow in the other direction.
One narrative says “drug prohibition causes gangs, gangs cause violence.” Pfaff’s narrative seems to say “poverty causes gangs, gangs cause violence, and then sell drugs.”
To me, the causality of this stuff isn’t one way. It’s a self-reinforcing circle. A feedback loop. And breaking any part of that circle is a good thing.