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April 19, 2012

"Our ‘War on Drugs’: Eugenics Without Surgery?"

The title of this post is the headline of this provocative commentary by Erik Roskes, a forensic psychiatrist, and appearing at The Crime Report.  Here are excerpts:

[There is prison] data showing that half of all inmates are currently incarcerated on drug offenses.  In my experience, more than half of the remainder are also incarcerated on crimes committed in the service of addiction: burglary, robbery, bank robbery, assault, felony murder.

And these inmates disproportionately come from segments of society that suffer various, often multiple, deprivations: social deprivation, educational deprivation, nutritional deprivation, cultural deprivation, cognitive deprivation.

Since drug addiction — or at least being caught, prosecuted and convicted for addiction and related crimes — disproportionately affects deprived segments of our society, I submit that our incarceration addiction is tantamount to eugenics without surgery....

In my view, the selective incarceration of young minority men due to addictions that they often develop in their socioeconomically and culturally deprived worlds removes them from society in part because we view them as the “bogeyman,” and as unfit to be full partners with us. This is eugenics in different form.

April 19, 2012 at 10:57 PM | Permalink


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It's not a radical or new thesis. As Justice Holmes used to opine "Society is built upon the death of men." My only quibble is that he showed a remarkable anthropomorphic bias in that comment. Remarkable because he often accused his good friend William James of having that same bias. Takes one to know one, I guess.

Anyhow I don't find eugenics a scary word, which is the underpinning of his thesis. Society practices eugenics all the time in many different forms. So what?

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 19, 2012 11:15:29 PM

Nobody's greedy. Nobody's violent. Nobody's abusive. Everybody's just deprived.

Yikes. This piece is an unintended, but wonderful, parody of the culture of victimization.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 20, 2012 8:54:30 AM

It is always amusing to see a leftist accuse others of "eugenics", since they invented and perfected the practice.

I suspect that if we let all of these feral people back into the streets to kill each other off(what the author proposes), the author would see that as eugenics as well.

It reminds me of the crack wars. The race hustlers crying racism because enough attention was not being given to crack cocaine, which was killing minorites. So, they make crack possession more severe in order to satisfy the race hustlers, who turn around and cry racism that more minorities are being put in prison.

Heads we win. Tails you lose.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 20, 2012 9:59:37 AM

I am confused as to how it constitutes eugenics. Most of my clients have already added many persons to the planet. The children all live with baby-mama and my clients are in arrears on their child support obligation. What I see is a perpetuation of poverty not purposeful deprivation. Oh well, I will probably be a called a racist anyway.

Posted by: Rip | Apr 20, 2012 8:21:06 PM

Rip is absolutely right. Anyone who spends any length of time with the offender population knows that parenthood is no stranger to them. This is so obvious that one wonders whether Dr. Roskes seriously considered his argument before he made it.

And while there's no question that drugs are a big part of the criminal lifestyle, drugs along cannot explain the phenomenon. As the criminological literature demonstrates attitudes play a seminal role.

Really, can we just get past all of the hyperbole already?

Posted by: Steve Erickson | Apr 21, 2012 2:44:12 PM

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