While in prison, he divorced, got married, received a college degree from Mercer University in 1992, a master's degree from Hofstra University in 1995, began a doctorate, and developed programs and resources for inmates and their families.
well, you can say he got a lot of time for that in there, but still, wow.
Then I read that Wikipedia article and it turns out he was caught selling cocaine in his 20s...
Man, say whatever you want for drugs being bad, but that's kind of a BS reason to rob someone of their youth like that. For 25 years I thought maybe he'd killed a guy.
Santos was considered a "King Pin" under the law, which essentially meant that he had several people working under him and was also dealing with very large financial transactions (this by his own admission in the UC Berkeley video).
By today's standards the punishment may seem harsh, but at the time it was probably appropriate.
I was born in DC; I don't need the Wikipedia article on the crack epidemic.
You really think locking people up is what solved that problem?
Your comment, on the other hand, does nothing but say that my comment is worthless.
Put that on your profile so next time this topic come up we know. Seriously. I didn't know that about you and time and time again posters post something from the past to give context.
Context might explain why the "tough on crime" politicians pushed for mandatory sentences even for minor amounts.
I'm not saying that selling drugs is equal or worse than murder, just that there is a lot more to what happens when you distribute drugs than just moving around white powder.
In a way, you could make an argument that prison should not have timed sentences, but rather that it should be "you stay until it is deemed that you will not offend again, and that you can be a productive member of society."
After all the word "corrections" implies that something should be corrected, not that somebody should be punished.
If it were only for corrections, then it would cause all kinds of problems. The most obvious one is that you get one "free crime" to commit.
There's also a fairness (and rule-of-law) argument: if two people steal $100 each, why would one person be let out earlier?
If that's your justification then the horse has already left the barn, developed space travel and colonized Mars. Look at the number of factors that go into sentencing -- or just the definition of the crime, like what was stolen (distinct from its market value) and how (e.g. on a computer vs. in person vs. in a conspiracy with accomplices), then there is a lot of flexibility for the sentence itself (most sentences are "up to" X penalty) with a whole list of mitigating and exacerbating circumstances in the sentencing guidelines, subsequent parole for good behavior in prison, etc. etc.
Even if prison was entirely intended for corrections, it is punishment (a denial of freedom). So there is a fairness argument that if two people do reasonably similar crimes that they should get comparable sentences. That is just one argument though, and fairness (as always) is weighed against other arguments.
Sure he's just one cog in a giant machine, but he's also responsible for death and hardship as a result of the drugs he moved.
Society in general also carries some of the responsibility, as do those involved in his upbringing. But I know that if my child came to any harm as a result of the drugs he supplied for his own profit I'd want him to be behind bars for that long - or until he was rehabilitated.
"In 2004, 17% of U.S. State prisoners and 18% of Federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs."
And we'd have a hella better handle on it it it were legal. Right now, I can drink myself to death; or get piss-end drunk and smack my partner around; or get piss-end drunk again, hit a ball game and start a fight in the stands - none of these actions would gain me 25 years in jail (though I'd be dead cause my partner would shoot me - and rightly so. :) ).
I can smoke cigarettes which has had one purpose - to addict me (oh and kill me in the process) but I can't smoke a joint in my own home without running a risk that some a-hole walking by will smell the pot and call the cops.
Drinking to excess is a growing problem and one that should be tackled.
I can't really understand what point you're making, is it that you think class A drugs should be legalised?
Not to mention, most of the violence caused by the illegal drug trade wouldn't exist.
My point is, in America it's legal for me to smoke cigarettes, carry weapons of mass destruction in my pocket, drink liquor (anywhere I please) but it's not legal for me to smoke a joint.
That's my point.
Drinking is difficult because there are reported health benefits as well and most of the world does not drink to excess.
You may think that doing those things in your own home, with your own body is nobody's business but yours. That, however, is naive. Let's say you overdose on cocaine or you get lung cancer from smoking, that is not a burden only you will carry, that is a burden on society.
Money spent on your treatment could be better spent elsewhere. This isn't about personal freedoms, it's about being a responsible member of society and unfortunately talking about it on the personal scale is totally different to talking about it on a national scale.
Ahh when was the last time you been to a football game in Europe? Or heard about a fight breaking out in the stands? Trust, they aren't smoking pot. So yes the rest of the world does abuse alcohol.
Oh and by the way, cocaine and pot also have health benefits. In fact, cocaine is still used today. And I doubt anyone will debate the health benefits of marijuana today.
"Let's say you overdose on cocaine or you get lung cancer from smoking, that is not a burden only you will carry, that is a burden on society..."
Let see; drunk driving; domestic abuse, liver damage, kidney failure - on and on. So don't give me this BS about the "burden on society". Go tell that to the many mothers against drunk driving.
"Money spent on your treatment could be better spent elsewhere. This isn't about personal freedoms, it's about being a responsible member of society and unfortunately talking about it on the personal scale is totally different to talking about it on a national scale."
There are more folk in treatment for alcohol abuse than drug abuse. And yet alcohol is legal. More people are shot by people drunk than people high. And yet alcohol is legal. More deaths are due to cigarettes than drugs (and alcohol). And yet cigarettes are legal.
And if we did end the drug war - over right the deaths in mexico would end. It's just that simple.
There is no reason to maintain the drug war except that every cop, every firefighter; every city, town, and state shares in the drug war pot. It's become a revenue stream. And the "war" part the the "Durg War" was lost decades ago.
Really look forward to a night out when a bunch of people are buying heroin in one bar, cocaine in a another and ecstasy at the club - sounds awesome!
I am from Europe, yes I've been to those games. No doubt alcohol is a problem. Comparing pot to alcohol is just dumb, they have complete opposite physiological effects. I've seen what long term pot smoking does to normal people, with normal jobs and normal lives - it's not harmless.
I have not seen any studies on the health benefits of pot or cocaine as part of a regular lifestyle - can you enlighten me? I've seen reports of pot and ms or cocaine used by doctors for procedures, but I never heard of them being recommended for regular consumption as a way to improve health.
And, again, point out the draw backs of some drugs (alcohol) does not mitigate the problems associated with other drugs (pot).
Yes, because making alcohol illegal actually made things worse in the very same ways strict drug prohibition creates vast revenue streams for organized crime and incurs a great deal of violence.
How about starting a startup? That often results in elevated stress and could impact health. Let's ban that too.
How about we take the ridiculous amounts spent on the drug war, regulate supply and tax products for potential harms, then use that to educate people on safety and provide support to people that get in trouble.
Not all drug takers have a problem with drugs. I know successful and effective CEOs, developers, prolific scientists, government policy analysts, and many others that take drugs. They are often more effective than any other people I know. So please check your stereotypes.
You could argue similarly by replacing drugs with anything (legal) that could harm your children. For example, do you blame motorcycle vendors for being responsible for deaths and hardship among the families of motorcyclists?
Drugs and motorcycles are certainly different, but it's a bit too easy to blame drug traffickers or dealers only without taking into consideration the parents and the social circle of the children.
Knives also enable me to prepare dinner and surgeons to remove my appendix.
I don't think that class A drugs carry the same risk/benefit ratio, do you?
Also, I think you missed the part where I said that society and family carry some of the responsibility for that child taking drugs, but then you were too busy arguing the point you wanted to make rather than actually tackling what I said directly.
Unfortunately, these drugs often are unpatentable, so it's safer to make them illegal (class A so that law says they "have no medical purpose"). Then big pharma can find less effective substances, sell them for more, and it's all under the guise of safety.
If that was really true, we wouldn't hold them criminally responsible for their actions.
It's not as if you wake up one day, and you're now instantly addicted to cocaine and are destroying your life. You had to make the choice to start using the drugs.
Until you realize that most of those destroyed lives are because drugs are illegal in the first place, which makes them:
1) expensive, 2) reason to get fired, 3) of unknown quality and ratios (hence overdosing), 4) related to gangs and violent crime, etc etc.
There is a very strong case to be made for the War on Drugs being far, far more harmful to society than drug use itself has ever been.
luckily there are other fun and legal substances like alcohol that never cause such damage. oh, wait.
A gun store is not blamed for someone dying at the hand of a gun they sold.
A drug dealer, on the other hand, has a business model based on addicting his customers to his product (unless there are dealers who advice their customers to stop buying and try and keep their addiction in line, as it is hurting them and their loved ones).
A better comparison, I think, would be a drug dealer and an arms dealer selling AK-47 on Irak.
It's clear you haven't known many (or any) drug dealers. Drugs are taken for pleasure, and drug dealers (who are often primarily also users just trying to make ends meet) sell pleasure to people who are gladly buying it.
What the criminal did in this case is no different at all from what major supermarkets do all the time with alcohol, with the sole exception that it's illegal because society has some very naive and stupid laws.
People can become alcoholics, and some people are more susceptible to it, that doesn't make everyone an alcoholic.
A much more effective strategy is education and regulated legal supply. People require licenses to sell, and potentially to use, and tax the harms in order to provide health resources for the people that do get in trouble.
It'll be cheaper, and fewer people will die.
With such a large cocaine network in the 80s, especially in Miami, I doubt there weren't some deaths directly connected to the operation.
It is impossible to predict the murders and overdose deaths that a drug kingpin ultimately causes. Also we have robberies, scams, shoplifting, assaults, Law enforcent and legal system costs, children who follow same the vicious cycle ETC...
The mindset someone of saying that a sentence like this is too harsh is weak, new age, wussified emotion (as opposed to sound and proven logic). Do you think that being a drug kingpin is something that you could ever do by accident? He made a conscious choice. A decision, over and over again until he was caught. His benefit outweighed the risk in his mind. If anything, the punishment should be heavier.
Look at a country like Singapore, they have the lowest crime rates on the earth. Crime has fallen every year for the last 20 years. Why? They are harsh on crime unlike us wussy western nations. Many Asian countries share a similar story.
It is clear if you listen to any of Santos' speeches, that he is playing a victim. He never takes responsibility for his actions. All he can do is take jabs at the legal system. He remains a deviant. I bet that if his money dries up and his wife leaves him that he will go back to a life of crime. He has done a lot to help prisoners become successful, and I agree with a lot of what he says, but I think that he is sorry for being caught, not for his crimes.
Why are you assuming he made a conscious decision? Why are you assuming he even knew what the penalties were, or contemplated being convicted, before taking on the endeavor?
>Look at a country like Singapore, they have the lowest crime rates on the earth. Crime has fallen every year for the last 20 years.
Crime rates have been on a gradual decline world-wide over the same period. Moreover, this is a good overview of the research into the cause of the decline: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-li...
TL;DR: It wasn't "tough on crime," it was phasing out leaded gasoline which had been causing neurological damage to children on a mass scale that was causing them to be irrational and violent as young adults.
I am not assuming anything. I am basing what I say on facts that are easily available.
>Crime rates have been on a gradual decline world-wide over the same period. Moreover, this is a good overview of the research into the cause of the decline: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-li....
TL;DR: It wasn't "tough on crime," it was phasing out leaded gasoline which had been causing neurological damage to children on a mass scale that was causing them to be irrational and violent as young adults.
Cool story, but I am talking drug abuse violations. These have quadrupled in the US over the last 25 years.
http://bjs.gov/content/dcf/enforce.cfm while steadily dropping in Singapore over the same time period. The deviation clearly began when they got really insanely tough on drug crime.
So what does this have to do with lead?
What? Does this mean that the death penalty isn't harsh enough because people still murder?
> It is impossible to predict the murders and overdose deaths that a drug kingpin ultimately causes.
A problem mentality indeed. The claim that a drug dealer "causes" overdose is just as ridiculous as the claim that a car salesman "causes" car crashes.
> Crime has fallen every year for the last 20 years. Why? They are harsh on crime unlike us wussy western nations. Many Asian countries share a similar story.
Correlation does not imply causation.
> The mindset someone of saying that a sentence like this is too harsh is weak, new age, wussified emotion (as opposed to sound and proven logic). Do you think that being a drug kingpin is something that you could ever do by accident? He made a conscious choice. A decision, over and over again until he was caught. His benefit outweighed the risk in his mind. If anything, the punishment should be heavier.
I cannot see where logic plays into any part of this argument. He knew he was dealing drugs and therefore should be punished exactly X amount? Being complicit in a crime is certainly more damning than being an unknowingly participant, but no part of your analysis uses "sound and proven logic" to derive a 25 year prison penalty.
Most murders are not pre-meditated. It people were allowed to cool down for 12 hours somehow, right before they comitted a murder, the murder rate would drop by 80%. All drug dealing is pre-meditated. You are not comparing similar things.
>A problem mentality indeed. The claim that a drug dealer "causes" overdose is just as ridiculous as the claim that a car salesman "causes" car crashes.
Selling safety approved cars is not illegal. Cars (unlike street drugs) are actually meant to help society. Your logic is sadly misplaced. if I you build a car from scrap metal in your garage and sell it to someone that dies in it because the brakes fail though, you'd better believe you are going to prison (as you should). This is a better example of reality than your attempt at misdirection.
>Correlation does not imply causation.
Correlation? we are talking about 15 countries with billions of people here. Sorry, there is no bigger "study" that could ever be done. In Singapore or other Asian countries, this fellow would have been executed - no question about it.
>I cannot see where logic plays into any part of this argument. He knew he was dealing drugs and therefore should be punished exactly X amount? Being complicit in a crime is certainly more damning than being an unknowingly participant, but no part of your analysis uses "sound and proven logic" to derive a 25 year prison penalty.
It is every citizen's responsibility to know the law. Sentencing is publicly available information. He could have found out with a single phone call exactly what penalty he would be looking at. What I am saying is, he is no victim. He chose to convince himself that he would never be caught. The heavier the punishment, the harder it is to convince yourself that it is worth the risk. Asian countries have proven this quite sufficiently. The problem is that our wussified system deems harsh punishment to be "mean" and so enables far more people to suffer in the long run.
If anyone here is married and is raising children, they know exactly how this wussification has penetrated into the fiber of our society so deeply. It is from women gaining power and influence. Women will not punish kids appropriately, they are too emotional and not logical. They allow their emotion to prevent them from seeing the big picture. Punishing your child today is difficult. it requires a lot of effort and requires putting a lot of unhappiness on your kids and yourself, but if you let everything go or don't give a fitting punishment (severity and approach to be 'fitting' varies from child to child), you are enabling your kids to become worse and worse. Eventually they get so rotten than you may decide to put your foot down. It MAY not be too late at this juncture, but one thing is for sure, if you had only taken care of business at a much earlier stage, It would have required less effort and pain for everyone involved.
Furthermore, women are the reason for the crippling level of political correctness that exists today. Women have instilled so much of this that the media, politicians and any other person who is in a position of any influence is paralyzed. They cannot place blame for anything out any group without risking a huge backlash.
Women are the reason for such high unemployment. 50 years ago, people were told, you don't work - you don't eat. Now we give people unemployment then disability for the rest of their lives (Not to mention that there is less jobs to go around now because women don't stay home to raise their own children).
Same with illegal immigration blindness, Social programs spending and waste skyrocketing, over sized government, invading foreign lands to "help those poor citizens", Illegal drug tolerance, poor educational system, Day care raises our kids now for crying out loud. No wonder this country is going to hell in a hand basket. Most parents shouldn't even be allowed to have a cat let alone children. Most moms of young kids are at work for 10 hours during the day and watch 1.7 hours of TV at night. What the hell are the kids doing during this time? The worst part is that (western) men are just standing by and letting this thing go. They are being subjugated slowly. Wake up men and lead your family like your ancestors did. You yourself will not be an ancestor if you keep on this way.
I fear that the west will eventually will fall because of this. Left will be Asia and Africa.
These are problems with drug prohibition, not drug use. This is like blaming whiskey for Al Capone.
Children follow the vicious drug cycle because of genetics. Most personality traits are fixed at the time of conception.
You are partly correct(except for on overdose deaths). If illicit drugs were legal, they would be a lot cheaper - thus less crime to obtain them. But there are plenty of Alcoholics today who do these same things for LEGAL alcohol.
The real problem though lies in what would happen if illicit drugs were accepted and available in society. Drugs are bad. What good comes of them for normal healthy people? How will they improve society? By letting people forget about their problems for a while rather than deal with them? I don't understand how they would make things so great.
>Children follow the vicious drug cycle because of genetics. Most personality traits are fixed at the time of conception.
Whose almost always end up in prison? Lifer junkies kids, or reformed junkies kids?
I have known two sets of identical twins (genetically identical) where one became a junkie (went to prison, homeless, etc) after falling in with the wrong crowd, and the other twin became a very successful person. The difference? one twin was convinced that it was OK to use illicit drugs, the other was not.
Do know that Native Americans are almost all ore-disposed to alcoholism, yet there were none before America was colonized by Europeans?
Wow, even prisoners get more life progress than I do lol
Obligatory Dilbert reference:
This guy was publishing his writing to the public during his sentence. And of course you can still have pen pals using snail-mail.
Its not impossible to see how romances start from that. How they make them work long term remain a mystery to me, nevertheless it does happen. I can imagine that someone on the inside would really value the companionship of a partner with indisputable sincerity. That must count for something.
Divorced, living with two kids in Lake Oswego, Ore., she had been aware of his criminal past but that didn't stop her. "I was drawn to him from the second I saw his picture," she says.
As he puts it, "She went to my website and wrote me a letter. That led to a correspondence and then a romance, and then we got married in a prison visiting room in 2003, at Fort Dix. I still had 11 years to go."
If you take a second to realize what it was 25 years ago, what it is now, and then ask yourself what it WILL be in 25 years...well shit, I was left speechless.
Exactly, especially the continued use of old drugs, lack of modern genetics, continued use of Bakelite and iron instead of aiming to develop newer materials such as composites and carbon fibers and modern alloys is appalling. And we still don't know how old the universe is, if there are planets at all outside the Solar system at all, we still have to wait for the images of outer planets, nobody really knows how to fight cancer, people around the world are starving because the green revolution has never happened, treating complicated medical cases is difficult due to the lack of X-ray tomography and MRI, sailors still navigate using a sextant because a global satellite navigation is completely inconceivable and innocent people rot in jail even though DNA evidence could prove their innocence at least in some cases.
Instead of condemning inmates, rehabilitate them.
Prisoners are paid but only a few cents per hour. They generally spend it all on buying cigarettes.
The punishments are much lower in Sweden than in the US. Drug smuggling offences and murders carry the longest penalties. I would say on average penalties are a factor 5x or 10x lower. This seems to be good for both criminal and society. Prisoners know they will have a life again after prison so they want to rehabilitate and prepare.
However, the last 10 years of very high immigration from the muslim countres of middle east and north africa is rapidly filling Swedish prisons. The chief of Kumla maximum security facility was recently in the news saying that 80% of his prison are muslim. Politicians don't want to touch the subject out of fears of being branded racist, but it's vividly discussed on the net in forums such as flashback.net
So just statistically speaking, has the overall crime rate gone up drastically in Sweden throughout the past decade or is it more of a slight bump? Just wondering if it has gone up enough that the average person notices in their daily lives or if it's more of a news report/sound bite for politicians? I'm not an expert by any means on Sweden, but I always thought of it as having a progressive legal system and low crime rate.
Statistics are complicated and there's no simple truth, but the number of reported crimes have risen dramatically since the 1950s (when immigration started). 
As soon as you start discussion why there is an increase you're holding a very hot potato.
For example, if you look at the armed robberies in 1987 and compare with 2011, the number of armed robberies by Swedish citizens are constant, but the number of armed robberies in Sweden by foreign citizens have quadrupled in absolute terms, or relatively speaking, the percentage of armed robberies have gone from 40% to 70% foreign citizens.
From 1975 to 2006, violent crime is up 200%
Some say Sweden's crime rate is out of control 
Mind you, I still perceive Sweden as a land with a low crime rate. It seems international crime statistics are very hard to compare. For intentional homicides, the rate in 1997 was 1.77 for Sweden, 0.54 for Japan, and 6.80 for USA. For major assaults, the rate in 1997 was 37.93 for Sweden, compared with 20.91 for Japan, and 382.31 for USA. For rapes, the rate in 1997 was 14.71 for Sweden, 1.31 for Japan, and 35.93 for USA. For robberies, the rate in 1997 was 75.04 for Sweden, 2.23 for Japan, and 186.27 for USA. 
 Wikipedia has a trend graph : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Sweden
 Robberies graph, blue citizens red foreigners: http://affes.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/ran_1987_1999_2011....
 violent crime graph: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anm%C3%A4ld_misshandel_197...
Yes. Helping prisoners build skill sets that allow them to get jobs outside of crime prevents recidivism. Considering that computer hardware becomes obsolete at a breakneck rate, the ROI of throwing old hardware at prisoners is pretty high.
I'm just amazed that this story is being regurgitated by an audience who will probably visit HN every day.
"Staff members oversaw policies that placed enormous barriers between the
people inside boundaries and society. In the prisons where I served my
sentence, prisoners were even prohibited from accessing electronic
typewriters. They had their reasons, I suppose, but blocking people inside
from using technology did not go far in preparing them for success upon
Prisions have a LOT of wrong things with them, which vary from country to country.
In my country there's so much overcrowding that Human Rights people aren't exactly clamoring for Internet access - there was an atrocious fire a while back which killed a lot of inmates, there simply aren't enough prisions.
If anyone wants to dig a little deeper, there are a lot of organizations working with prisoners for success stories like this. Check out http://thelastmile.org, and http://startupnow.org.uk
I think the story was a bit too good to be true. If it is completely true, it is just too amazing!!!
Since the big comment subthread here is about the author's criminal history and what that means to society, I should probably comment on that issue too. I've lived in east Asia, and once upon a time, I thought that there was a generation of Americans who had all heard of the Opium Wars and understood the historical context of why several countries in that part of the world want nothing to do with their common people having access to most drugs. Harsh drug laws in some places--including the death penalty for what seems to Americans like dealing rather small amounts of drugs--is a reaction to a historical experience in which whole countries were ruined by foreign drug dealers (British imperialists trading in opium) and their local agents. I'm not personally in favor of the death penalty for all drug dealers, but I can empathize with (for example) a parent of a child who started using drugs who would want the child's dealer in prison for the rest of his life or even dead.
Of course we want to look to other countries for historical examples too. In Europe, where the historical experience was different, there has been some decriminalization, but very little "legalization" of drugs.
I am tentatively convinced that a national drug policy that focuses mostly on keeping users from harming other people and on helping users to stop using is perhaps a better national drug policy than harsh criminal penalties for dealing in drugs--in countries that have already established a drug-using culture. But east Asia, with very harsh drug laws and a culture of limited use, is doing well in human progress,
so that policy choice has to be put in the mix too in evaluating what will work well as the United State reforms a national drug policy that everyone seems to decry.
> I can empathize with (for example) a parent of a child who started using drugs would want the child's dealer in prison for the rest of his life or even dead.
I can empathize too, but this runs counter to the idea of justice. I'd want to have the hand chopped off the guy who stole my bicycle (actually, I'd want to do it myself), but justice must separate the passion of the victim from an objective measure of the damage the crime did to society.
Good arguments could be made for considering alcohol, coffee, and cigarettes "drugs", and yet most people don't think of them in that way.
In fact, in some societies alcohol, coffee, and tobacco were outlawed -- even to the point of instituting the death penalty for their posession or use. In some societies, the posession or consumption of alcohol is still forbidden; while in others it's quite commonplace and not considered a big deal.
Coffee drinking has been accepted nearly everywhere as a virtually harmless or even beneficial activity. But look at the fear and outrage it generated in earlier European society as evidenced in Bach's humorous Coffee Cantata, or in the Middle East where for a time it was made illegal.
Perhaps one could argue that opium is worse than coffee, alcohol, or tobacco, and so deserves to be called a "drug" and made illegal. But counter arguments have been made that at least alcohol and tobacco are actually worse, and should be made illegal if any of these substances are. Alcohol actually has been made illegal in the US in the past and that hasn't worked out so well.
And where does all this leave psychedelics, many of which have been shown to be far less harmful than opium, alcohol, and tobacco? In fact, many studies have shown the benefit of psychedelics when used constructively for therapeutic purposes. There's also a long history of psychedelic and other currently illegal substance use in religious ritual, and of the belief that these substances are sacred.
Should people go to jail for helping themselves and others, for peacefully practicing their religion, or for seeking to expand their minds and awareness through these substances? Should these substances be called "drugs", "sacraments", or "tools"?
Advocates of the so-called "war on drugs" often will not accept or even acknowledge the possibility of constructive, positive currently illegal substance use. They tend to smear all such use as drug abuse.
Yet much of what society values: music, art, literature, religion, technology, science, and medicine has been positively influenced by currently illegal substance use.
To take one relatively uncontroversial example: odds are that much of the music that most readers of this post listen to every day was inspired directly or indirectly by these substances. It might not say that on the album cover, but dig in to it a bit and you'll see that either the musicians who made the music themselves used these substances to inspire their music, or the musicians who strongly influenced them did. The same goes for a lot of art and literature. This leads to another important point: much of the good that currently illegal substances do is unacknowledged because there's a stigma against admitting that you use or approve of them.
If you look at the history of mind-altering substance use and the reaction of socieites to these substances, a clear pattern emerges where it is usually new mind-altering substances that are feared and made illegal, while mind-altering substances that have had a long history of use in that society are tolerated or even considered sacred (as in the wine drunk during Catholic rituals, or coffee's use by Sufi mystics).
Another feature of drug prohibition is that there are often religious, moralistic and puritanical aspects to reactions against certain substances. Some altered states of consciousness achievable through the use of these substances are considered to be "impure" or "derranged" in some way, and their users are considered immoral, depraved or wicked. Anti-drug crusaders often adopt a moralistic, "holier than thou" attitude towards users.
Racism and xenophobia are other common features of the drug war. Substances which minorities choose to use (like crack used in black ghettoes) are stigmatized, while substances which the dominant majority chooses to use (like cocaine use in white suburbs or on Wall St) are effectively tolerated.
Political opportunism plays a huge role, as does the eagerness of politicians to appear like they're being "tough on crime".
Finally, there's the economic aspect -- where the prison industry, police, lawyers, judges, and the Drug Enforcement Agency benefit from arrests, imprisonments, and asset forfeitures. The alcohol and tobacco industries, and arguably the pharmaceutical industry also stands to benefit from keeping certain substances illegal.
 - Just one example of many: "c. 1650 The use of tobacco is prohibited in Bavaria, Saxony, and Zurich, but the prohibitions are ineffective. Sultan Murad IV of the Ottoman Empire decrees the death penalty for smoking tobacco: "Wherever the Sultan went on his travels or on a military expedition his halting-places were always distinguished by a terrible increase in the number of executions. Even on the battlefield he was fond of surprising men in the act of smoking, when he would punish them by beheading, hanging, quartering, or crushing their hands and feet . . . . Nevertheless, in spite of all the horrors of this persecution . . . the passion for smoking still persisted.'" - http://www.trivia-library.com/a/history-of-legal-and-illegal...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_Cantata
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition
 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22190802
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychedelic_therapy
Okay, sir. Time to settle down and reel that nonsense back in.
He speaks emotionally about things that aren't necessarily tethered to reality and his facts aren't precise, and maybe he has the amnesia of a politician.
His message is that prisons are bad, and that we should rethink the manner of punishment we exact on people. His passion is very obviously motivated by personal experience, and that doesn't invalidate his message. Essentially, I agree with him. But. I'm not drinking his kool-ade about "OMG INTERNETZ."
Yes, I'll entertain his notions about prison being an inefficient and destructive practice that mostly leaves inmates as damaged wrecks, and possibly transforms many into more terrible criminals than they might've been without jail time. But I'm going to take his message with a grain of salt.
When I say dangerous, I mean it. He is too new to the internet, to extoll its virtues. In the same talk in which he absolutely RAILS against the privatization of prisons (which is an evil all its own, and yeah I'll agree with his points on that) his next words advocate just haphazardly dumping absolutely anything into the hands of large, corporate, profit-driven nigh-monopolies like Facebook. There's a cognitive dissonance in those two concepts that he very obviously hasn't thought deeply about (and to be fair, maybe he hasn't been given the time yet).
Which is surprising, I might add, considering that he's a man who had his mail read by prison staff, his phone calls monitored, and was displaced across 19 prisons during his time served.
He needs to acclimate himself with some of the debacles of the recent internet over the past 5 years in particular, and maybe familiarize himself with personalities like Julian Assange. If he can bring himself to understand certain realities about the internet, and how it can enable evil as well as good, maybe he wouldn't be so quick to proclaim that it's some kind of universal salve, which can cure all our ills.
Tens of thousands of innocent people gets killed every year, because we don't want people who have made far more conscious "choices" to become heroine addict.