Former directors of drug control policy for Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, William J. Bennett and John P. Walters, warn that current sentencing reform legislation pending in Congress will unleash more carnage on American communities already suffering from the deadly consequences of drug addiction:
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act now before Congress is based on a lie — that drug dealing is not a violent crime. Americans have been told this lie for years even as we witness the violence and death caused by drug dealers in our communities. Now, this lie is propelling legislation through Congress that will destroy more lives.
As former directors of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, we carry a particular responsibility to speak up when so many who should know better claim that drug trafficking has been treated too harshly under federal law.
Claims by President Obama and others that federal prisons are filled with “nonviolent drug offenders” and that drug dealing is a “victimless crime” are grotesquely dishonest. How can the drug trade be victimless when most Americans know a victim? How can it be non-violent when we witness the carnage every night on the local news?
The countless Americans victimized by drugs know the truth, as does anyone who has looked at the facts about America’s prison population.
Drug dealing is inseparable from violent victimization. Illegal drugs kill tens of thousands each year in overdose deaths. More die in violent acts and accidents under the influence of drugs. Still more die slowly of blood-borne diseases contracted through injection drug use and through high-risk behavior while under the influence of drugs, including prostitution to support addiction. Street-level dealers look into the eyes of these victims daily as they take addicts’ money and foster their self-destruction. Traffickers at levels above the street know this reality and take their wealth from it, spreading death across neighborhoods and across the globe.
No family that has lost a child or a mother or a brother to addiction can be told there are no victims. No school or community believes the empty rhetoric that a lost child was “only hurting herself.” There are too many innocent victims, from the infants born addicted to the grandparent who stands beside the grave of the child of their child.