Drug War Prisoners


Mark is Professor of Policy Studies at UCLA's School of Public Policy and Social Research. His credentials can be seen at www.sppsr.ucla/faculty/kleiman.php. Drug War prisoners know him best for his advice to the Clinton administration to Get Tough on Drugs in Prison. Keep testing positive to a drug while you're incarcerated and you will never get out, is the idea.

But Mark also has a wicked sense of humor. One evening at the plenary session at the Gorbachev Foundation's State of the World Forum in San Francisco - it was in 1997 or 1998 - the audience was popping questions to the panel of distinguished speakers of which Mark was one. The session was devoted to the problem of what to do with people who use illegal drugs.

A nice looking man stood up two rows from the front and said in a clipped Arab accent: "In my country we execute them." It was uncertain if the information was expected to win brownie points.

Mark took the microphone to handle the remark. Research, he said, had shown that 5000 cocaine users could be executed in the US and it would bring the price of cocaine down by one dollar. The word from an expert that execution was not the right way to go appeared to satisfy the audience, and discussion passed on to other topics.

The next day, having an opportunity to pass a couple of quiet moments in Mark's company, I pressed him on his use of the term "research." Could he cite the reference to this unusual piece of research, I wondered? Or (giving him the opening) had he just made up the 5000 figure and thrown it in to take the focus off Saudi Arabia?

Put that way, perhaps, there wasn't room to wriggle out. "Oh, just made it up," Mark smiled.

A professional reputation comes in handy at these times.


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