RECKONING by Elliott Currie


Drugs, the Cities, and the American Future
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 Another entry in the recent wave of drug-policy books by academics. Currie (Sociology and Criminality/UCLA at Berkeley; Dope and Trouble, 1991; Confronting Crime, 1985) begins by observing that the Reagan/Bush war on drugs has failed: Drug use has increased among the poor, although it has fallen off slightly in the middle class. Moving to the ``roots of the drug crisis,'' Currie presents a history of illicit heroin use in America, starting in 1946 (although some might argue that this history really should begin in 1914, with the Harrison Narcotics Act) and concluding that drug use is ``intimately related to conditions of mass social deprivation'' (i.e., poverty). Currie then suggests several models of ``personal meanings of drug abuse'' (the ``status'' model, the ``coping'' model, etc.)--although how this new taxonomy will help is unclear. The author firmly opposes the legalization of drugs, contending that such a move would allow America's profit-oriented companies to ``cause devastation of poor communities by drugs.'' So what to do? Currie advocates reducing penalties for drug use (``saner sentences'' would ``deter more effectively''); sentencing traffickers, not users-- an approach another drug-policy analyst, Mark Kleiman (Against Excess, p. 234), calls an ``odd hybrid'' that would swell the black market by freeing buyers from risk but leaving sales in the hands of criminals; and providing serious help for drug abusers within the criminal-justice system. Here, Currie quotes from a California prison commission that found that, besides A.A. and other 12-step programs, no resources exist to deal effectively with drug abusers. ``Therefore,'' the commission states, ``there are virtually no drug-treatment programs in our adult prisons''-- a statement that would probably astonish A.A. and N.A. members who have worked, for no pay, with prisoners for 40 years. Much fretting--but not much in the way of new solutions.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8090-8049-4
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992


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