Mark Kleiman on Drug Policy and Reducing Violent Crime

+ Brandon Fuller

The Justice Department recently produced two videos of UCLA public policy professor Mark Kleiman discussing drug policy and violent crime.

"Drug law enforcement has a natural tendency to increase the stakes in drug dealing—put more money on the table, put more time behind bars at risk and therefore to increase the value of violence to people engaged in illicit drug trade. So we should expect all things equal, that ramping up drug law enforcement is going to increase rather than decrease violence. That’s what we’ve been seeing in Mexico. Now, that doesn’t have to be true. You can focus drug law enforcement in a way that reduces violence by in effect saying to market participants, “your chances of being nailed for your drug dealing activity goes up if you hurt people in the process.”

"The Drug Enforcement Administration believes that for every major drug dealing organization in the U.S. they can mark out one or more of the big Mexican organizations as the source. Imagine we took one of those big organizations, selected based on its record of violence, and attacked every U.S. distributor who’s selling their drugs and announced that. I think the U.S. distributors would find new sources pretty quickly, and you would’ve put your target organization out of business, basically giving them a case of commercial leprosy, where nobody wanted to touch their stuff."

"Imagine you’ve done that once, and now you announce, “We’re running the contest again; we’re going to find the next-most- dangerous dealing organization.” I claim that everybody will look around and try to be less violent than the guy next to him, and with any luck you can generate a race to the bottom in rates of violence."

See full transcript at Kleiman's blog.

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