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Question of the day

Friday, Aug 11, 2017

* The Intercept

Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, one of several Democrats vying for his party’s nomination to run for Illinois governor against incumbent Republican Bruce Rauner, doesn’t think the drug war was a failure.

“The war on drugs was a success,” he said in a speech on criminal justice reform given last month. “Because the war on drugs was never actually on drugs. It was against black people.”

Pawar used that address to explain the true history of the modern drug war, which President Nixon utilized to crack down on the anti-war left and African-Americans.

As part of his campaign, he’s vowing to end Illinois’s participation in that drug war through a battery of policies: making minor possession of controlled substances no longer a felony, legalizing and taxing marijuana, expanding addiction treatment, establishing a truth and reconciliation commission to air police-community grievances, and, most radically, using his commutation powers as governor to simply commute the sentences of nonviolent low-level drug offenders.

* The Question: Do you support the concept of a governor commuting sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders? Click here to take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments
  1. - Spliff - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:57 pm:

    poll doesn’t work


  2. - Fredo Corleone - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:57 pm:

    I think it is a slippery slope when it comes to commuting sentences of drug offenders. The level of violence, either directly or indirectly, associated with illegal drug use is not insignificant. Outside of cases where an individual has used a very small amount of marijuana, I would support the full term being served. I support individual accountability, which iisn’t a very popular position here.


  3. - Gruntled University Employee - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 2:59 pm:

    I voted yes, It’s time to end this madness. I will however concede that marijuana is a gateway to harder drugs but only in the following context. My Government has told me all of my life that marijuana is a schedule 1 narcotic, as dangerous as heroin. So when I decided to try it (in my late 40’s) I discovered that my Government had been lying to me all along, so if they lied to me about this maybe they were lying to me about heroin to…


  4. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:03 pm:

    Yes it does.


  5. - #5 - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:03 pm:

    @Spliff
    Try again maybe? It looks like the current vote is 32 yes votes to 16 no votes.


  6. - IllinoisBoi - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:04 pm:

    “The war on drugs was a success … because the war on drugs .. was against black people.” I know what he’s trying to say, but it almost sounds like he’s saying a “war” that targets black people is a positive, successful enterprise.


  7. - Lunchbox - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:04 pm:

    Of course I’m a yes. I gotta say, even though Pawar has less than no chance, I admire his campaign so far.


  8. - phocion - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:05 pm:

    I voted yes. Convictions for these non-violent offenses can and do ruin lives. For no good reason. We have real issues in society that need to be addressed; burdening people like this is a drag on all of society. I don’t agree with a lot of the conspiracy theory stuff Pewar is saying, especially since it does not promote racial and social healing. But on removing permanent stigmatization for drug use, which is often done just as a young person - or responsibly by quite a few middle class professionals, is a huge net gain for us all.


  9. - Responsa - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:06 pm:

    I didn’t see in the Intercept article what constitutes “low-level” or “nonviolent” with respect to Pawar’s commutation platform. So it’s hard to answer this conceptual question of the day. Did I miss his explanation of the definition or criteria he would use for such commutations as governor?


  10. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:06 pm:

    It sounds like a good idea on the surface, but they’d probably let out a few bad apples whose release would later be regretted. Sometimes a more heinous crime is committed, but not all the charges stick, and the cops and prosecutor get the perp on what they can. Question: does “controlled substances” include only MJ here, or also meth and heroin?


  11. - yo - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:06 pm:

    Ending the drug war would do a lot to help race relations in this country.


  12. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:09 pm:

    I voted no. Need a more specific definition of low level drug offender. I believe as he seems to that most minor possessions of controlled substances should be legal and taxed. I also believe that if legal all prior convictions of such items should be expunged. However I think this should be a blanket thing and not at sole discretion of Governor. Also, with drug diversion programs available and drug courts sometimes I think people have abused the chances many times before they end up in prison. So tell me what you mean by minor.


  13. - downstate commissioner - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:10 pm:

    voted yes, but actual answer is more “it’s okay.” Depends on actual crime and the individual; simple possesion they shouldn’t be in jail in the first place; something worse, maybe not.


  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:12 pm:

    ===I support individual accountability, which iisn’t a very popular position here. ===

    Oh, please. Don’t hide behind silly buzz words. How about letting non-violent individuals be accountable to themselves?


  15. - Sangamon Diety - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:14 pm:

    =So tell me what you mean by minor.=
    Non-violent - burglarizing your home and/or business. Forging checks and documents, all other theft.

    It’s minor as long as someone else is the victim.


  16. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:15 pm:

    I voted no. I’m not against the concept, but as others have noted, I’m not sure that “low-level” is well-defined yet. Further, with the opioid crisis, I wouldn’t want to create one problem while we’re solving another. More details, please, Alderman.


  17. - blue dog dem - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:16 pm:

    Is drug offenders users or sellers? Voted yes, but need conditions.


  18. - IRLJ - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:17 pm:

    I voted Yes.
    Prohibition doesn’t work.
    Never has.
    Never will.


  19. - 47th Ward - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:19 pm:

    Are there any good estimates of the number of “low-level, nonviolent drug offenders?” I’d google it, but even defining the parameters is pretty subjective. Is a conviction for resisting arrest or assualt something that would make someone “violent?”

    I’ve always assumed there were very few truly “low level nonviolent” drug offenders. People who got busted acting as a courier for a large amount of drugs, for example, who otherwise had no criminal history. I think this is a good idea, but I don’t think we’re talking about huge numbers of inmates. So we’d realize no significant savings, but at the same time, there is almost no risk to society for having these men and women back on the streets.


  20. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:21 pm:

    “Do you support the concept of a governor commuting sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders?”

    I voted “Yes”

    “Why?”

    If I “believe” that a governor can pardon or commute (which isn’t just a silly idea, it’s found in the constitution) then the parameters could be anything within the constitutional authority of a governor.

    Is it taking the sentencing power away from judges and/or juries? The constitution already allows a governor the descretion, so quibbling about an overall intent is really what the issue appears to be.

    I guess an argument is like Geo. Ryan commuting death sentences, but that’s too simple to the plan here.

    So, I’m still a “Yes”, and my hope is descretion isn’t just for the connected or high profile, but this, like justice, is fair and just, and right for all.


  21. - Dome Gnome - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:25 pm:

    I voted yes. I think use, abuse, and addiction are social and/or medical issues, not meant for the criminal justice field. I also believe that we should put our efforts into making real life a high worth chasing after.


  22. - DrurysMissingClock - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:26 pm:

    Yes, the Alderman hit the nail on the head (hate that he’s not a real contender, but him being a vehicle for attention of Leftist issues is nice). The War on Drugs was an excuse to treat minorities like criminals.


  23. - Harvest76 - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:29 pm:

    I’ll Echo the sentiment that prohibition is not the answer. I’ll also push back against the idea that drug crime is not a victimless crime, and therefore should remain illicit. The very reason that the drug trade exists in the format does now is because of the criminalisation of drugs like marijuana. If you criminalized fidget Spinners, you’d have a criminal enterprise blossom behind it quite quickly.


  24. - Pacman - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:37 pm:

    I voted no. Users should be given rehab, but the dealers need to go to prison. These are not victimless crimes, I was once told by a defense attorney that 75% of all crimes have a nexus to drugs, from petty theft to murder. Users commit crimes to support their habits and dealers commit crime defending their turf. I do believe weed should be legalized and taxed.


  25. - Longsummer - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:37 pm:

    One day, when this Nation ends the ridiculous war on drugs, historians will look back at shows like Cops and ask “wth were these people doing?” Just watch Cops for 10 mins and the first thing you will see is a poor person (usually minority but not always) being pulled over for a taillight and then the car get searched, usually small amounts of drugs are found, then the handcuffs come out.


  26. - VanillaMan - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:39 pm:

    …and Prohibition was just a war against those beer-swilling, Kaiser-loving Germans, those whiskey-swilling Irish, those wine-swilling, Pope-worshipping Italians, those check-cashing, barkeeps, those VD-infected party ladies, and those mystery-hooch selling alcoholic distributors…


  27. - Release - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:40 pm:

    If a person has undergone treatment to ensure they are no longer addicted, yes. Possibly


  28. - Lucky Pierre - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:41 pm:

    The war on drugs was a success,” he said in a speech on criminal justice reform given last month. “Because the war on drugs was never actually on drugs. It was against black people.”

    Even though he is an alderman in Chicago he seems unfamiliar with how we are losing the drug war in Chicago.

    The shootings on the South and West side of Chicago are almost 100% drug related.

    The heroin and other drugs come up from Mexico and are distributed through rival gangs who are killing each other and many innocent victims in the cross fire.

    We are losing this war on drugs and guns.

    Ameya Pawar just jumped the shark


  29. - Oneman - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:44 pm:

    I voted yes.

    I would rather have those beds available to have people who commit violence to potentially serve longer sentences.

    Also
    I think the Nixon rhetoric is a bit over the top and discounts the fear drugs put (and to a degree still do) in parents when it comes to their kids. So my caveat would be no commutation if it in any way involved a minor.


  30. - striketoo - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    In the twenties, we threw people who sold beer in prison. Today, it’s marijuana and drugs. Prohibition doesn’t work, never has, never will.


  31. - Flynn's mom - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    I voted yes. Prisons are overcrowded and expensive. Treatment in the community along with job skills and assistance with housing would be better for all. It would be more cost effective and getting people to become productive members of the community should be the goal.


  32. - Politix - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:49 pm:

    “I support individual accountability, which iisn’t a very popular position here.”

    It’s long past time we are accountable for the drug-related disproportionate minority contact that led to prison overcrowding in the first place. Research well documents black over-representation across the entire criminal justice system, not just prisons, and black imprisonment has weakened the fabric of communities across the state for generations.

    I voted yes.


  33. - Earnest - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:50 pm:

    I voted yes. I agree with his point of view. However, I’m having second thoughts. I want a Governor to be able to correct injustices and be able to step in when the system doesn’t work in particular instances for whatever reasons. But, it might be going too far to support a Governor to pardon everyone because he doesn’t agree with a law. What if a different governor decided to pardon everyone convicted of a law I do support?

    And to think I started out the day praising the McQueary for not qualifying her observations….


  34. - Politix - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 3:52 pm:

    “If a person has undergone treatment to ensure they are no longer addicted, yes. Possibly”

    Residential/corrections-based treatment options are severely limited in IL. So what now?


  35. - Politix - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 4:02 pm:

    “We are losing this war on drugs and guns.

    Ameya Pawar just jumped the shark”

    Actually, Pawar is taking cues from those who have been working on IL criminal justice reform for decades, including policy wonks who now work for the governor.

    Most gun crimes are considered felony or violent crimes, which would make people convicted of those crimes ineligible for what Pawar is proposing. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.


  36. - perry noya - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 4:03 pm:

    Voted yes. Pacman, “75% of all crimes have a nexus to drugs.” But what if drugs were legal?


  37. - ArchPundit - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 4:04 pm:

    ===If a person has undergone treatment to ensure they are no longer addicted, yes. Possibly

    What about those who were never addicted?


  38. - Pacman - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 4:11 pm:

    Perry noya still got to support your habit. The drugs aren’t free. Even if legalized there will still be black market sales and the beat will go on.


  39. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 4:12 pm:

    I voted yes. The Governor has the power to do that now.

    The problem is with implementation. What do you do with violent people convicted of nonviolent crimes? All Capone was jailed for tax evasion, a nonviolent crime.

    Quinn’s early release program had problems with violent people who were currently serving time for nonviolent offenses. Cases need a full review, including evidence not admissible in court. This is an exercise of mercy not justice.


  40. - Michael Westen - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 4:35 pm:

    No. The law is the law. If you can’t do the time (or don’t want to) don’t do the crime.


  41. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Aug 11, 17 @ 4:38 pm:

    Now 81% yes and 19% no.


  42. - Mr B. - Sunday, Aug 13, 17 @ 7:57 pm:

    I dislike Pawar. The way he phrased this made it sound like the laws and policing of illegal drugs is some kind of White Supremacist conspiracy. Ok to relaxing weed. But heroin kills and the state needs to be 100% enforcing laws to curb this drug.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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