Document Type


Publication Title

Albany Law Review



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Drugs, Punishment, Violence, Task Force


Between 1994-1996, I was one of twenty-eight members of a Drugs-Violence Task Force, created to report to the United States Sentencing Commission specific findings, conclusions, and recommendations concerning the interrelationship (if any) between drugs and violence. Much of the controversy concerning how to approach the drugs-violence problem reflects two conflicting and long-held views of drugs and crime: the criminal justice view, which emphasizes detecting and punishing drug offenders, and the public health view, which advocates treating the drug addiction that leads some individuals to commit crime. Traditionally, the criminal justice view is associated with a “tough on crime” attitude that attracts wide public appeal, while the public health view is vulnerable to accusations of “coddling criminals.” Although now it appears that this tension between views may be lessening, the conflict was alive and well during the years preceding the Task Force's development, and while its members were meeting. I believe the tension also contributed, in part, to the Task Force's ultimate demise and lack of consensus.