Last week, President Obama met with David Simon, creator of the HBO series “The Wire,” to discuss the effects of the War on Drugs and how the nation’s drug policies have helped oppress the downtrodden of America.
Calling the show, “one of the greatest pieces of art in the last couple of decades,” Obama claimed its depiction has done what the mainstream media should do—show glimpses into the lives of non-violent drug offenders in order to “humanize” their story.
“Part of the challenge is going to be making sure, number one, we humanize what so often on the local news is just a bunch of shadowy characters, and tell their stories,” Obama told Simon. “That’s why the work you’ve done is so important.”
It is apparent from the beginning of the interview that Simon sides with common sense, discussing how “The Wire” was developed based on his experience in Baltimore during the 1980s, and watching how law enforcement attempted to control the city’s drug problem through incarceration. At the same time, he said, arrest rates for violent crime began to drop.
“What drugs don’t destroy, the war against them is ripping apart,” he told Obama.
Agreeing with Simon, our nation’s leader said it is encouraging that “some of the smarter police departments” have begun to realize that busting non-violent drug offenders does not work.
Yet, even though he chastised the incarceration problem in the United States and admitted the system is turning non-violent people into wild animals, President Obama never once took responsibility for the issue, nor did he disclose the fact that he has the authority to remedy the problem before he leaves the White House in 2016.
Instead, he waxed philosophical over his supposed concerns.
“The challenge,” he told Simon, “is folks go into prison at great expense to the state, [and] many times [are] trained to become more hardened criminals while in prison, come out and are basically unemployable and end up looping back in.”
Simon responded by arguing that if the criminal justice system was “this draconian” and it worked, there may not be as much room for debate.
“But it doesn’t work,” he said.
Although President Obama acknowledged that the drug war, at least with respect to mass incarceration, is creating an economic pinch for taxpayers, he failed to provide any insight whether his administration will take additional steps to renovate the criminal justice system before the end of his term.
The Department of Justice under Obama has been applauded for softening its wrath against states that have legalized marijuana, as well as for efforts to adjust mandatory minimum sentences.