This NY Times article reports on Utah Senator Orrin G. Hatch’s intervention recently on behalf of Dallas Austin, a 35-year-old, black record producer who had been arrested, convicted and sentenced to four years in prison in Dubai for possession of about a gram of cocaine. Kudos to Senator Hatch for helping prevent a talented man from enduring an injustice over a victimless crime.
But as noted in this previous post, the American criminalization of drug possession is a costly nightmare on many fronts. Currently, over 350,000 people languish in American prisons for drug possession. Commenting on Senator Hatch’s intervention on behalf of Austin, David Boaz over at the Cato @ Liberty blog observes:
Surely Hatch thinks regular old Americans are due the same consideration as a Grammy-winning singer. Heíd advocate the release of any American convicted of possessing 1.26 grams of cocaine, right?
Or are politicians hypocrites? Could it be that they think average Americans like Richard Paey should go to jail for using large amounts of painkillers, but not celebrities like Rush Limbaugh? Could it be that they laugh about their own past drug use while supporting a policy that arrests 1.5 million Americans a year, as a classic John Stossel ìGive Me a Breakî segment showed? (Not online, unfortunately, but you can read a commentary here.)
Putting people in jail for using drugs is bad enough. Putting the little people in jail while politicians chortle over their own drug use and pull strings to get celebrities out of jail is hypocrisy on a grand scale.