The delicate balancing act that Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are attempting in order to unseat President Donald Trump—variations on a theme of “we’re different from now, yet sort of the same as before, while also better”—leads the presidential hopeful to sometime triangulate his way into incoherence.
Or simply bad policy choices. This is evident when Joe Biden speaks about drugs. “Credited” as an architect of the country’s mass-incarceration crisis, Biden opposes marijuana legalization, resistance he’s held onto despite overwhelming public support for legal recreational cannabis.
And while Biden insists he’s opposed to incarcerating drug users, last week he repeated earlier calls to sentence nonviolent, low-level drug users to mandatory rehabilitation instead. Biden’s held onto this position For more than a calendar yearDespite the fact mandatory rehabIt feels and looks exactly like prison. rehab centers—often privately owned for-profit operations— can be so rife with abuse that even conservative anti-drug groups don’t like the concept.
This mix includes mandatory addiction treatment It doesn’t work., as researchers in Russia found in 2016—and even worse, they raise the chance of a fatal overdose once the program ends by as much as 50 percent, research in Massachusetts found—and you have a very questionable policy choice that Biden is nonetheless very committed to.
“With mandatory or coerced treatment, you actually have something that’s neither ethical nor effective,” Leo Beletsky, Northeastern University School of Law, professor of Law and Health Sciences. “The evidence certainly does not support replacing incarceration with quote unquote mandatory rehab, which in many corners of this country looks pretty much like incarceration, just under a different name.”
Joe Biden supported mandatory sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders on Sept. 3. rehab–a … [+]
The candidate Most recently updatedMandatory rehabDuring a campaign stop at Wisconsin on Sept.
“Anyone who gets convicted of a drug crime, not one that is in terms of massive selling but consumption, they shouldn’t go to prison. They should go to mandatory rehabilitation,” Biden said. “Mandatory. They’ve got to go. Mandatory rehab.”
(Anyone selling drug should, on the contrary, go to jail or prison as the case may be.
The Biden campaign did no immediate respond to messages seeking comment. Biden has been consistent in his response.
As OnTheIssues.org noted,He said something similar to that on August 23, just after naming Sen. Kamala Harris, the former California attorney General and San Francisco District Attorney, as his vice presidential nominee.
Mandatory rehab also came up a few times during the debates in 2019, when Biden said much the same thing he’s saying now, in response to charges from Sen. Cory Booker—and Kamala Harris—that his old-school approach to drug reform just wasn’t good enough.
“Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem. They should be going directly to a rehabilitation. We build more rehabilitation centers, not prisons,” He said this in September 2019, at a Houston debate.
A heroin addict looks out the window at a rehabilitation center.
AFP via Getty Images
It’s worth pointing out that as a ticket, Biden-Harris isn’t entirely consistent on drugs. Biden opposes legalization while Kamala Harris, the Senate sponsor of The MORE Act, would allow for a nationwide marijuana industry. Biden’s suggestion of sales or possession being a misdemeanor rather than a violation puts him in conflict with most of his party.
While it is not clear how he would govern, Biden is pushing for what Beletsky and other experts call a dangerous and punitive approach that is ineffective. “jail lite.”This is evident at least in the context of court-mandated rehabMany people in the country are already seeing the promise of Biden’s future.
Healthline noted37 states allow family members and medical professionals to request a court to order treatment. This is also being tried by some jurisdictions at the local level, where a drug offender is arrested.
Some advocates argue that forcing someone to be with them is wrong. rehab was the only thing that saved them—a contention supported by some research in the literature, which has found that “coercive” models Ultimately, it is a successParticipants are kept in rehab. (Maybe they don’t have any choice; what happens next is another matter. There are many other areas. Where rehabIt is sometimes difficult or impossible for people to get to these centers.mandatory rehabIt may be better to have none rehabNone at all
But as Beletsky and Denise Tomasini-Joshi, a division director at the Open Society Foundation’s Public Health Program Last year, this was pointed out in an Op-Ed in The New York Times, involuntary treatment is by definition a suspension of civil rights and a punitive measure—two of the central features of the drug war.
One program in Massachusetts allows participants to live in cells “under lock and key.”They are wearing orange jumpsuits with ID badges identifying them. “inmates.” They’re supervised by correctional officers. They are in jail in word and deed.
Most rehabPrograms in the United States can be traced back to Synanon, a style that originated in the United States. … [+]
Getty Images LMPC
In other states, however, there are rehabThese centers do not have locks, bars, or guards. (There are also rehabCenters that force the “patients”For-profit companies can use unpaid labor Reveal News reported this report in this year’s edition.)
But let’s say the individual sentenced to rehab leaves, or refuses to go—both “logical choices,”Beletsky stated, “Many of these programs can be both abusive and ineffective.”
Their reward for this logical choice is a violation of a court order—which then sends the drug users to jail anyway. Most states have a similar system. rehabOnly an option for a first-time criminal. You can’t go to jail for a second offense, or sales, or a firearm involved. Jail. What’s more, nearly all drug crimes are punished on the state level, rather than the federal level. No president can unilaterally convince a state to change its drug laws—and there is good reason to believe that deep-red states would resist if the trick was tried. There’s a good chance that Joe Biden couldn’t even mandate rehabIf he tried.
Why not create more attractive, well-funded, and effective voluntary rehabilitation centres? This would be something that could actually work, and it would be funded through the Affordable Care Act. (Even Donald Trump could do it if he wanted.
This would be even better, since it is a key predictor of whether or not you will get the job done. rehabIt is important that the person receiving treatment wants to be there.
He says he wants to build. rehabJoe Biden is close to a solution that experts and science agree would work. But in mandating treatment, and not specifying what the treatment centers would look like, he’s settling on a punitive model that is little more than a nicer-looking version of the same old “lock em up” approach.
“The bottom line is a lot of people who want treatment can’t access it, and forcing people into treatment completely misses that target,”Beletsky said.
What Biden is suggesting “uses the coercive arm of the state to force people into programs that make them worse off and put them in harm’s way,”He added.
“It’s little more than a rebranding of punishment, but I guess if there’s a silver lining, he’s signaling that he’s open to talking about more scientific interventions to drug addiction?”Beletsky offered. “It just isn’t coming through yet as an informed opinion.”