The New York Times profiles Yiskar Caceres, a habitual drug offender whose story is emblematic of the stubborn problem of narcotics abuse. “Recidivism is as common to the justice system as orange jumpsuits and iron bars,” writes the Times’ John Eligon. “Caceres's case will not make any law journals, but it seemed to be more than the customary New York City criminal case.” In court Thursday, the judge was struggling to decide what to make of the young man before him. It was hard to tell who was in more pain, Caceres, his mother or the judge.
Caceres, 19, does not easily fit the mold of a habitual defendant. He is articulate and affable, and he had no lack of positive role models. Except for his time in jail, he has lived in only one place, with his family in Harlem. A judge once wrote a note in his file: “A good nonviolent kid from a good background.” In an interview, Caceres provided a window into the thinking of a repeat offender. His path to prison started on a spring day in 2005, when he was a high school freshman. At lunchtime, he said, a classmate asked him if he wanted to smoke marijuana. He was too high to return to class. He enjoyed the feeling. By his sophomore year, he said, he was spending $100 a week on marijuana and smoking daily.