the war on drugs
December 28, 2016

More than 6,000 people have been killed since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte started his war on drugs six months ago, and reactions from inside the country are mixed.

It's believed that most of the murders were done by vigilantes, and Duterte, who said in November his anti-narcotics push won't stop "until the last pusher drops dead," refuses to condemn them. Reuters interviewed several people on the streets of Manila to ask for their thoughts on Duterte's hardline measures, including one woman, Rosalina Perez, who said her brother was killed by police during a drug investigation. "At first, we liked what [Duterte] was doing," she said. "But as it went on I started to question what he was doing. Everyone who wants to change are just killed. They are not even given a chance to explain themselves to the authorities."

Felicidad Magdayao, the owner of a fast-food restaurant, said his business has "suffered" under Duterte's leadership. "People are afraid to go out," he said. "At dawn, we only have a few customers. At least, there are fewer drug addicts and drug pushers."

Police officer Ronaldo David told Reuters his caseload has dwindled, and he's now focused "on educating people and in prevention." A teacher said the streets are safer now and children are allowed to walk to school alone again, and grave digger Sandro Gabriel Jr. shared that the cemetery where he works has had an influx in burials of people shot and killed in the drug war. "I am not saying Duterte should keep killing people," he said. "But for us, we will keep working as long as there is work." Catherine Garcia

March 31, 2016

President Obama on Wednesday shortened the sentences of another 61 drug offenders, bringing his total commutation tally to 248, which is more than the previous six presidents combined.

But Obama's numbers look less impressive when considered proportionally. Thanks to a recent spike in commutation requests, Obama lags behind former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and even Richard Nixon if commutations are counted as a proportion of clemency petitions. Carter granted 2.8 percent of commutation requests, Ford 4 percent, and Nixon 6.7 percent. To date, Obama has assented to just 1.3 percent of some 20,000 commutation requests submitted during his tenure.

"At his current pace," The New York Times remarks, "Mr. Obama will free a small fraction of those prisoners by the time his term ends next year," while thousands of petitions will go unaddressed. For its part, the Justice Department has said it does not have the resources to process the applications more quickly. Bonnie Kristian

November 27, 2015

Ending or significantly reforming the war on drugs has long been cited as a primary way to lower America's record-setting incarceration rate. In recent years, however, the extent of the potential impact of decriminalizing drug use has been challenged, with one study finding that only one in five inmates in state and federal prisons is held on drug charges.

Now, new research from the Brookings Institute finds that measuring the proportion of drug offenders in a snapshot of inmate populations may be misleading. That's because drug sentences tend to be shorter than sentences for more serious crimes like homicide, so murderers wind up being overrepresented in studies which look at the static stock of prisons at a single moment, while drug users are underrepresented.

To better measure the effect of drug laws on incarceration, the Brookings study looks at the flow of inmates in and out of prison over time:


Measured this way, drug offenders actually make up the largest single category of prisoners, with one of three new admissions to prison stemming from drug charges. Bonnie Kristian

August 17, 2015

On Monday, the White House will announce a new initiative that brings together law enforcement and public health coordinators in an effort to curb an uptick in heroin overdoses and deaths.

The $2.5 million program will be funded for one year in 15 states across New England and the northeastern part of the United States, The Washington Post reports. The death rate from heroin overdoses has quadrupled over the past 10 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, and the use of heroin has sharply increased in the areas covered by the initiative.

Under the program, 15 drug intelligence officers and 15 public health coordinators will work together to determine where the heroin is coming from, how and where it is being laced with a toxic additive, and who is giving it to dealers on the streets. After they collect data and intelligence, they will share what they have uncovered with local law enforcement departments. "If somebody from Brooklyn is arrested with heroin in Burlington, Vermont, we may not hear about it for months, when that information could allow us to see a trafficking pattern that lets us focus on who to go after," an official told the Post. The program will also train first responders on how to administer medication in order to reverse an overdose. Catherine Garcia

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