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August 23, 2009

Denial, Depression, and Drugs

As the nation (and the world) slide ever deeper into economic depression, the nearly complete absence of the D word from discussions of the present "financial crisis” (or "economic meltdown,” if you prefer) have struck me as bizarre. But then, my recent preoccupation with the “war" on drugs may have made me more aware than most of the myriad ways by which unpleasant truth is avoided by our species. By far the most common is simply pretending not to notice; a practice known as "denial."

Examples abound; a recent front page item in the SF Chronicle, reported on a proposal in the state Senate to reduce California’s prison population by discharging 27,000 sick or elderly and non-violent inmates, a move that could save $525 million/year. It predictably evoked outrage from Republicans, who have traditionally been both more "tough on crime," but opposed to "big government" than Democrats; apparently without realizing that criminals created by tough drug laws must be cared for at public expense.

It was thus ironic when the feature of this week-end's Insight section of the Chronicle turned out to be a comparison of California and Michigan prison systems within the context of an offer (so far declined) from Michigan's governor to make some of her state's surplus prison capacity available to California, a move that could benefit both states.

There are, of course, difficulties in implementing such an offer that would have to be negotiated, not the least of which would be making up for the hardships imposed on families by the greater distances involved, but the opportunity for constructive change should not be dismissed out of hand.

On the subjects of denial and prisons, I can't resist adding that both are big anomalies in the nation that claims to be the "Land of the Free," but leads the world in incarceration (both per capita and in absolute numbers).

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 23, 2009 08:44 PM