Another commentator is wondering whether the Obama administration is heading for a turning point on national drug control policy. Writing in Nation’s Cities Weekly, columnist Neal Perice cited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that the war on drugs has “not worked,” the rollback of New York State’s Rockefeller drug laws, and Obama’s endorsement of Sen Jim Webb (D-VA)’s call for a national criminal justice commission.
The Webb idea, Peirce writes, “could be the official eye-opener, the crucial re-examination of America's penal and drug policies that the nation has so sorely needed for years.” We're “warehousing” the mentally ill in our prisons, where they get scant professional treatment. Then he focuses on “the elephant in the bedroom” – the rise in drug incarcerations. In 1980, the U.S. incarcerated 41,000 drug offenders; today the figure tops 500,000. Some say Webb, representing conservative Virginia, is threatening his political future, Peirce says. “But if he can get us off the dime, thinking and acting fresh on crucial prison and drug issues, he'll be serving America as vitally as the bravest of his erstwhile Marine colleagues.”