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Social Networking: Letters and Other Responses to Our Last Print Issue

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Pacific Standard, March/April 2015.

Pacific Standard, March/April 2015.

Maia Szalavitz’s detailed look at New Zealand’s experiment in regulating and controlling recreational drugs instead of criminalization is an object lesson on how truly difficult and complex an issue this is. In my work, I’ve been critical of U.S. drug policy, and suggested a policy reversal relying on regulation and control, as is done with alcohol and tobacco. Given the somewhat chaotic and politically charged unfolding of the Psychoactive Substances Act in an island nation of less than five million people, I am re-thinking my position. A national policy reversing course would not only be impractical, it would be doomed to failure from the start. Residents of states which are now liberalizing cannabis laws are still subject to federal prosecution, and the fact that the current administration has taken a hands-off approach, citing prosecutorial discretion, should give no one comfort. The best answer for the U.S. is for Congress to repeal the Controlled Substances Act. States have their own drug laws, most of which are simply duplicative of federal law. The federal government’s long and sordid history of drug regulation is well known, from Anslinger to Nixon to Reagan, and it is unnecessary. States are capable of deciding for themselves. Liberal politicians, who often decry the absurdity of our war on drugs, would support this measure, as would conservatives, whose political touchstone is a smaller government and more states’ rights.
—Glen Olives Thompson, Professor of Law, La Salle University Chihuahua, Mexic0


About your article by Graeme Wood on the Colorado Correctional Industries: In many prisons, education and job training programs have been closed down or cut back, supposedly due to budget constraints. Counseling, drug treatment, and other services have also been scaled back. During my time in federal and state prisons, the majority of people suffered simply from being idle. The institutions offered them nothing useful to do apart from exercising in the yard and playing tabletop games. Ultimately, this destruction of human potential is the primary tragedy of our system of racialized mass incarceration—not the creation of a slave labor force.
—James Kilgore, Scholar, Center for African Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign


I think very highly of Mr. Smith and what he is accomplishing in the prison system: teaching our citizens skills so that when they come out of prison they will have the confidence to find work or even start their own businesses. This is a healthy, human need that was lacking in most of these inmates. Mr. Smith is to be praised and honored for the work he has done.
—Suzanne Pero, via e-mail

At the website Grist, Ana Sofia Knauf writes: “Responsible consumption isn’t just about environmental impact: We have to be sure the people producing our food are being taken care of and fairly compensated, too. No one needs more of a reason to hate herself while standing in the Whole Foods checkout line.”

After we published Graeme Wood’s story, Undercurrent News, a British website that covers seafood issues, contacted Whole Foods about their purchase of tilapia from Colorado Correctional Industries. A spokesperson responded, “It’s not a large part of the seafood we sell.” The company added that the prison’s farmed tilapia “is some of the highest-quality tilapia available in Colorado [and that it] meets our industry-leading responsibly farmed seafood standards. ... One of our core values is supporting our communities, and that includes the paid, rehabilitative employment of inmates at Colorado Corrections [sic] Industries.”


I read a story about some folks living in California who bought a small lot for $410,000 and are placing tiny shipping containers on it and making “homes” out of them. That sounds like craziness to me. In 1983, when I was merely 24, I bought a 10,000-square-foot piece of property, in a tiny town, for $500. After a year and a half of working on it, with an extremely limited budget, I was able to move in. Now, 30 years later, I have a home that is very comfortable, and visitors rave about its beauty. I write this to tell others that there are abandoned buildings in virtually any town or city in the country that one might be able to purchase for little more than the back taxes on the property. If you live where it is common to pay $410,000 for an empty lot, maybe you are living in a place that is not worth living in.
—Gary Brown, Iowa


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