The Superpredator Myth: It’s Still Alive Behind Bars

Drug addicts whose violent crimes once earned them the sobriquet of superpredators still languish in prison for years, with little hope of mercy, in defiance of contemporary thinking that treats opioid abuse as a disease that should be handled outside the justice system, writes TCR’s columnist from a Washington State penitentiary.

There is a strange parallel between the history of the so-called “superpredator” and the conception of “dope fiends.”

Not too long ago, “superpredator” became the favored word of some criminologists to describe the emergence of what was considered a dangerous threat to public safety in the U.S. A ruthless criminal concealed within the body of an adolescent male, he was often black, and his habitat was the inner city.

Violent criminal conduct was a unique, and terrifying, behavioral characteristic of these young beasts. When captured, the mantra “Adult Time for Adult Crime” supported sentencing them as if they were just as culpable as their fully matured counterparts.

Similarly, a much older phrase, “dope fiend” came back into use to describe those superpredators immersed in the world of illicit drugs. The stereotype was just as brutal: He (usually a he) was conceived to be a hedonistic, nihilistic hybrid, usually having dark skin, who sometimes spoke with a Hispanic accent.

Committing crimes to support his narcotic addition was a favorite pastime. And just as in the case of violent superpredators, he was the target of the “tough on crime” policies that sent so many young black men to prison in the 1980s and 1990s for long stretches of confinement.

Fast forward to 2019.

Now, there’s a broad consensus among criminologists that the so-called superpredator is better understood as a youth whose crimes more often than not reflect transient immaturity rather than irreparable corruption, and whose skin complexions encompass the color spectrum. The U.S. Supreme Court and last year, the Washington State Supreme Court, relied upon the attendant neurodevelopmental research findings to invalidate some of the harshest penalties for the kinds of juvenile offenders once written off as unreformable superpredators.

Even heinous crimes committed by young people are now viewed through a prism that mitigates their culpability.

I was once in the superpredator category myself. I received a life-without-parole sentence for my involvement in a murder at age 14—a crime that I have regretted ever since.

But the courts’ new approach gave me—and many others in similar situations—a path for hope. My sentence was amended retroactively, and I was given an opportunity to be freed. I received mercy.

But the stereotyped “dope fiend” version of the superpredator still stunts the lives of thousands of inmates in U.S. prisons today who were sentenced for crimes committed when they were young—despite a growing body of research that has made that version anachronistic.

For one thing, opioid addiction is no longer, sadly confined, to the poor young person of color.

We all realize that the opioid epidemic in America has destroyed the lives of soccer moms and rural white teenagers just as much as it has youths in the inner city.

The broad consensus that dealing with this crisis requires a public health approach rather than criminal justice machinery has spread to policymakers at federal, state and local levels.

But not to prisons.

All too often, these ameliorative approaches are only being implemented at the front end of the criminal justice system. Unlike former superpredators such as myself, mercy has yet to be applied retroactively to the sentences of opioid addicts imprisoned while they were young. Their lives are untouched by the contemporary recognition that their crimes were not simply a product of free will, opportunity and a rational calculus.

The case of Corey Irish provides one illustration of why such former drug “superpredators” should receive relief—notwithstanding the fact that their crimes occurred long before overdosed bodies began to pile up in refrigerator trucks from West Virginia to Ohio.

Drugstore Robbery

Late in the evening of April 23, 2007, in Tacoma, Wash., Daniel Garibay was just about to turn away from the customer he finished serving through the drive‑through window at Walgreen’s pharmacy when he heard a loud thump on the floor behind him.

He would never forget the sound.

“I mean, I’d never heard something like that,” he testified, according to trial transcripts.

The sound was Corey Irish landing on the floor after he leapt over the counter. The young man immediately began demanding drugs by their generic and non-generic names.

“When he first jumped in, at first he asked for Percocet, Oxycodone, and Vicodin…then it seemed like he just wanted anything,” Garibay told the jury during Irish’s trial in Pierce County Superior Court.

He was stunned when Irish pulled out two trash bags and told Garibay to fill them up. According to Garibay, “They looked like forceflex bags. He told me which drugs he wanted, and then he asked me to put them in the bags after I opened the cabinet.”

Meanwhile, Irish’s accomplice, who stood guard over the other two employees after flashing a gun in his waist line and corralling them into the stockroom, kept apologizing.

“I’m sorry I have to do this, you know…Just be quiet,” Jeanelle O’Dell recounted the accomplice saying as he made her kneel on the floor.

Mike Staten also recalled, “He kept apologizing for what he was doing, saying he wanted to be in and out.”

Back in the pharmacy, Garibay had moved on to filling up a third garbage bag that Irish made him get after the two that Irish brought with him were filled to capacity. Ten minutes elapsed from the loud thump Irish made when he landed behind the counter to when he finally lifted the bags filled with childproof bottles, summoned his accomplice from the stockroom, and began to leave with his haul of prescription narcotics.

The police arrived before the men escaped from the scene. Irish was arrested with the bags of OxyContin, Percocet, Valium and Vicodin, and everything in between. His accomplice fled empty-handed and was never apprehended by the police.

During the closing arguments of Irish’s trial, Sunni Ko, the deputy prosecuting attorney, rhetorically asked the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, again, what do you think he was going to do with three bags of drugs? Do you think that he was going to keep them in his room and have it for personal use for the rest of his life?”

The notion that an addiction to prescription medication was powerful enough to make anyone do such a thing stretched belief. His intent was obviously to distribute the pills for profit, Ko argued to the jury.

The jury agreed.

At sentencing, Irish, who met the DSM-IV-TR criteria for opioid dependency, explained to the judge, “We wasn’t trying to hurt anybody. We just wanted some pills. And besides…I do pop pills, constantly. That’s why—not making excuses on any of that—but I mean, I do have a problem.

“Whether it was one bottle or 100 bottles I took, it was going to be a robbery anyway, so I mean, a thousand apologies, especially to the victims.”

His mother, a high school teacher, told the judge how she had tried to convince her son to get treatment before the crime occurred. His aunt, an assistant mayor, also implored the court, writing, “Corey needs the opportunity to enter a program where he can receive help for the drug problem and counseling to get to the root of his problems.”

The judge empathized with Irish’s family, but she had no sympathy for Irish.

He was sentenced to spend the next quarter century in the care of the Washington Department of Corrections—a prison term that exceeds the minimum sentence a defendant would serve for committing premeditated murder.

The Paradigm Shift

Criminal justice officials in Ohio probably would not be surprised upon hearing that someone tried to steal garbage bags filled with prescription pills from a pharmacy in a robbery. There, the opioid epidemic is so devastating that the foster care system has been overwhelmed by children who have become the detritus of addicted parents.

Tom Synan, Newtown Ohio’s Police Chief, has come to believe that addiction should no longer be considered a crime.

“It took 70,000 people to die before society shifted its opinion on opioid addiction,” he observed during a symposium sponsored by The Washington Post, headlined Addiction in America, The New War on Drugs.

Experts on substance use disorders who have tracked the etiology of opioid addiction would also see a familiar theme with respect to how Irish went from being a supervisor at a fabrication company to the perpetrator of a drug store robbery.

After suffering a back injury in 2006, he was prescribed OxyContin during a period when pharmaceutical companies where downplaying its addictive properties, financial incentives led doctors to over-prescribe opioid pain medications, and the naive failed to perceive the signs of misuse and abuse going on around them because addicts did not fit the stereotypical image of a dope fiend.

They resided in the heartland.

They worked and went to church on Sundays.

They weren’t dark-skinned and had no accent.

During the 12 years that have elapsed since Irish was confined, legions of young men and women went from pilfering their parents’ pills when they were teenagers and snorting them with friends to shooting heroin. Nurses have lost their jobs for stealing narcotics from their elderly patients. Countless men and women have lost custody of their children.

Let us pause for a moment to reflect on the crack epidemic, the policies it generated, and the character attacks on the addicts. Whether America learned from these mistakes or the socio-demographic and white complexion of many contemporary opioid addicts brought enlightenment with respect to this latest drug epidemic, I can only guess.

In any case, the criminal justice system is already bursting at the seams due to mass incarceration. It therefore comes as no surprise to me that officials have lost the appetite to use demonization and imprisonment as expedients for dealing with the opioid epidemic—especially since the problem exists within their own communities.

I can imagine policymakers deliberating about establishing drug courts, implementing diversion programs, and funding more treatment centers now that a drug epidemic is not confined to the inner city.

“These people need help. They have a disease. We can’t just lock them up and throw away the key,” I can hear them saying.

Left Out

But those still confined before these sentiments affected the criminal justice system are seemingly left out of such discussions.

Recall that retribution was warranted because it was believed that these people were driven solely by their criminogenic needs. Their addictions, in and of itself, manifested they had little interest in being a part of law-abiding society.

But that was the past. The scientific consensus that opioid addiction is a disease undermines the deterrent and retributive purposes of punishment in these cases, leaving only incapacitation for rehabilitation.

Regardless, those confined before this paradigm shift have got nothing coming. Far too many of them present unsympathetic images due to their current convictions and dark skin complexions.

But make no mistake about it: If 10,000 soccer moms were languishing in prison for pulling capers to obtain prescription pain medication, lawyers would be battling to get them executive clemency or, alternatively, judicial relief based on arguments that these new socio-medical findings satisfy the legal standard for newly discovered evidence and warrant resentencing hearings to present mitigating factors in support of reducing their prison sentences.

Jeremiah Bourgois

Jeremiah Bourgeois

That said, it remains a mystery how many years will pass before policymakers provide relief to those locked away in penitentiaries because their disease drove them to commit crimes to secure more—and more—prescription pain medication.

Until then, Corey Irish will continue serving out a sentence that exceeds the minimum term that is imposed on those who commit premeditated murder.

Jeremiah Bourgeois is a regular contributor to The Crime Report, and a recent graduate of Adams State University, where he earned an interdisciplinary degree in criminology and legal studies. Since 1992, he has been confined in Washington State for crimes that he committed at age fourteen. He is currently petitioning for release. Readers who wish to support him are invited to sign up here. He welcomes comments.


Fed Drug Penalty Enhancements Show Racial Disparities: Report

The US Sentencing Commission found that black offenders constituted the majority (51.2 percent) of federal offenders who received a seldom-used penalty enhancement for drug offenses, followed by white offenders (24.3 percent), and Hispanic offenders (22.5 percent).

While penalty enhancements for federal drug offenders are rarely used, they disproportionately impact black offenders,said a report released Thursday by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC).

The report, the fourth in a series on mandatory minimum penalties, examines the use of 21 U.S.C. § 851, a penalty enhancement for drug offenders with a prior felony drug conviction. To trigger an “851 enhancement,” a prosecutor must file an information citing which prior convictions support the enhanced penalties.

Subjecting an offender to an 851 enhancement significantly affects his or her sentence length, the USSC analysis found. Offenders’ sentences increased by over five years on average when the government filed an 851 information. Offenders who remained subject to the increased minimum at sentencing received an average sentence of nearly a decade longer than the average sentence for offenders who received relief from the filed 851 information.

Relatively few drug offenders actually saw their sentences increase, however – only 3.9 percent of eligible offenders. This is due in large part to a low filing rate. In 2016, the government filed an 851 information against only 12.3 percent of offenders eligible for an increased penalty under the statute – 757 individuals – and withdrew the information in 22.5 percent of those filings.

The application of 851 enhancements showed great geographic variation. For example, prosecutors in five judicial districts sought 851 enhancements against over half of eligible drug trafficking offenders, while the government in 19 districts did not seek a single 851 enhancements against any eligible offenders.

In cases where 851 enhancements are used, the USSC found, mthere was a ore significant impact on black offenders than on other racial groups.

Blacks were more likely to have the requisite prior convictions to qualify for the enhancement: they comprised 42.2 percent of eligible offenders. Even after accounting for eligibility, however, black offenders made up an increasingly large proportion of offenders as they progressed through each stage of the 851 process.

Black offenders constituted the majority (51.2 percent) of offenders against whom the government filed an information seeking an 851 enhancement, followed by white offenders (24.3 percent), and Hispanic offenders (22.5 percent).

The prevalence of black offenders was even more pronounced for offenders who remained subject to an enhanced mandatory minimum penalty at sentencing, with black offenders representing 57.9 percent of such offenders.

In its 2011 Mandatory Minimum Report, the USSC recommended that Congress more finely tailor the scope and severity of recidivist enhancements for drug offenses to reduce inconsistency. This report calls into question whether that recommendation has truly been put into action.

This summary was prepared by TCR News intern Elena Schwartz. She welcomes readers’ comments.


Will Trump Revive the War on Drugs?

The answer is far from clear. But the battle lines are already being drawn in Congress and in statehouses across the country.

Is the drug war back on the nation’s agenda?

That depends on whom you ask.  But uncertainty over the answer begins with President Donald Trump himself.

Nearly two decades ago, in a Miami speech to 700 Florida business executives, he offered policy prescriptions that would have pleased most drug reformers.

“You have to legalize drugs,” Trump told the executives, at a time when the cocaine crisis was ravaging south Florida. Speaking at an awards ceremony hosted by the Miami Herald, he declared, “You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”

Today, such views are becoming mainstream—shared by advocates on both the left and right. But if the administration’s budget released this week is any guide, those views now have little traction in Washington. Instead, Trump’s new “law-and-order” justice team seems bent on pursuing the zero-tolerance enforcement policies that he described in his Miami speech as a “joke.”

The President’s 2018 budget package supports a federal drug control budget of $27.8 billion—with the bulk (56 percent) going to supply reduction strategies such as increased interdiction and enforcement. That’s in contrast to the Obama administration’s “Drug Policy for the 21st Century,” which emphasized demand reduction programs such as treatment and prevention over law enforcement efforts.

While some drug reformers maintained Obama was still being over-cautious in backing away from zero-tolerance drug enforcement policies, his administration was the first in history to propose more funding for drug treatment and prevention than for enforcement and interdiction.

Trump’s budget also exposes some sharp differences between the new administration and legislators on both sides of the aisle who have been supporting efforts to reduce the fiscal and human costs of mass incarceration (joined by state and local officials)—efforts that include changing, if not reversing, the now four-decade old combative approach to drug enforcement.

Uphill Battle

How that conflict plays out remains to be seen. But the President’s budget suggests reformers who want to prevent the country from sliding back into the punishment-oriented and law-enforcement-dominated strategies that characterized the so-called War on Drugs” have an uphill battle ahead of them.

One clear indication of which way the wind is blowing: the Trump budget calls for $84 million in new funding for the federal prison system in anticipation of a swell of inmates caught up in the administration’s new enforcement initiatives.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued new charging policy guidelines that instruct federal prosecutors to disregard one of the game-changing moves taken by the Obama administration on drug prosecutions. A 2013 memo issued by then-Attorney General Eric Holder recommended that prosecutors avoid  seeking mandatory minimums and sentencing enhancements for nonviolent drug defendants with no ties to criminal trafficking organizations or extensive criminal histories.

Noting that these efforts resulted in “unduly harsh sentences and perceived or actual disparities that do not reflect our Principles of Federal Prosecution,” the memo added that “long sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation.”

Such sentences are a major reason why the U.S. has led the world in per capita incarceration rates. Although it’s unclear what impact the Holder memo has had on drug prosecutions, the release of thousands of federal prisoners jailed for nonviolent drug offenses contributed to an overall drop in the nation’s prison population in 2015 to its lowest level since 2002—a decline that was further fueled by the decision of many states to re-think their own “tough on crime” sentencing strategies.

Sessions believes, however, that such “soft” sentencing is responsible for recent crime spikes in many cities, and the increase in the proposed funding for the federal prison system seems to many critics an implicit acknowledgment that the new policies will reverse the prison-population decline.

“Donald Trump is pushing an outdated approach to criminal justice that virtually everyone now recognizes is a staggering waste of money,” Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, told The Crime Report. 

The effort to reform drug enforcement strategy  has strong support from leading Republicans and even conservative stalwarts like the Koch brothers. That raises questions about whether the Administration’s tightening of drug policies will actually succeed.

“Trump can tinker with federal criminal justice policy, but he won’t be able to reverse the cultural shift that has occurred across the nation,” predicted Leach.

Will the hardline rhetoric make a difference at the state level?  Responses so far have been varied.

States Rethink Drug Policy

The Florida Senate rejected a bill this month that would have created new mandatory minimums for trafficking the synthetic opioid fentanyl. In Pennsylvania, however—where prison reform measures led to the largest drop in the state inmate population in four decades—Republican lawmakers have been advancing a measure to re-introduce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes.

One key driver of drug policy reform has been the spreading opioid epidemic.  And in this area, the lines between hardliners and reformers seem blurred.  During the campaign, Trump put it high on his agenda, giving special weight to addressing the issue as a public health problem rather than a law enforcement problem—and that appeared to resonate with voters. Many of the epidemic’s victims are in states that voted Republican last November.

The new budget proposes $10.8 billion to support recent legislation aimed at expanding treatment for substance abuse, such as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)—which was passed by Congress last year to improve state programs in drug treatment and overdose prevention.

That’s a slight increase over 2017 continuing resolution levels; nevertheless it represents a  drop from the $13.2 billion earmarked for treatment efforts in 2016. The new budget earmarks $128 million for CARA-related programs—$25 million less than 2017—with most of those cuts coming from a reduction in Targeted Enhancement Grants to expand the availability of medication-assisted treatment, an evidence-based approach that uses suboxone and methadone to help reduce drug dependency.

The mixed signals—a renewed emphasis on treatment combined with cuts—make it hard to draw conclusions about White House policy.

Adding fuel to the skeptics’ concerns, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, sparked an outcry from the medical community during a multi-state opioid “listening tour” when he stigmatized people on opioid replacement drugs like methadone and buprenorphine.

HHS Secretary Tom Price. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

“If we’re just substituting one opioid for another, we’re not moving the dial much,” Price said of MAT, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “Folks need to be cured so they can be productive members of society and realize their dreams.”

The President’s decision to tap Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, a respected addiction expert and a strong proponent of medication assisted treatment, to head the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has eased some anxieties. But critics worry that any progress on treatment will be undercut by massive cuts to social services programs and health care.

The President has also proposed $150 million in new funding toward law enforcement strategies specifically to address the opioid crisis. This includes an extra $30 million for the Drug Enforcement Administration that will be used to expand the agency’s Tactical Diversion Squads —which investigate doctors and pharmacies suspected of being “pill mills”—and to hire more U.S. attorneys to pursue federal drug cases against them.

According to budget documents the money will also be used to help the DEA implement forthcoming recommendations by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recently created Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. Officials say the task force will work closely with Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis— led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—to develop the details.

Sessions named Steve Cook, former head of the National Association of Assistant US Attorneys — a conservative group of U.S. Attorneys strongly opposed to criminal justice reform — to lead his crime reduction task force.

Adding doubt to the importance placed by the new administration on the treatment approach, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office this week projected that Trump’s signature health care bill, which passed the House on May 4, would leave 23 million people without health insurance (including support for substance-abuse programs and counseling) over the next decade.

“What’s often overlooked… is that economic safety net programs and overall health care services are also critical [in treating addiction],” said Leo Beletsky, an expert in public health and law at Northeastern University. “If Trump succeeds in slashing resources to those programs, the opioid crisis will spiral into something a lot more deadly.”

The Drug War Abroad

In other areas, Trump has evoked the specter of an expanding drug war by connecting his proposals to build a ‘Great Wall’ on the southern border with Mexico with effort to stem addiction. Among other things he proposes hiring 1,500 new federal border and immigration agents to block international drug trafficking—one of the centerpieces of previous Washington policy—and i asking Congress to funnel more than $2.6 billion to border enforcement.

Critics like Beletsky argue such strategies have not been successful in the past—and are not likely to be successful in the future.

“Given the dynamics of the illicit drug supply chains, I can predict with 100 percent confidence that [border enforcement] will do nothing to stem the flow of illegal drugs to the US,” Beletsky said. “In fact, ramping up interdiction efforts at the US-Mexico border may exacerbate the problem by making fentanyl and other cheap synthetic drugs that much more attractive to dealers.”

The shifts in criminal justice policy—including drug policy—have already elicited a vocal backlash from current and former public officials in both political parties, including Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, and former Attorney General Holder—who issued a statement calling the effort “dumb on crime.”

Last week, 15 Democratic state Attorneys General joined in, with a letter admonishing the new administration’s tough on crime stance.

“Pursuing the toughest criminal penalties against defendants is an outdated approach that has not lowered recidivism rates or reduced crime,” said Lisa Madigan, the Attorney General of Illinois.

“We need the Justice Department to be at the forefront of implementing proven policies to reform our criminal justice system in ways that lower prison populations and make our communities safer.”

Bipartisan Pushback

The criticism isn’t limited to Democrats. Brett Tolman, the U.S. Attorney for Utah during the Bush administration, says the administration’s rhetoric signals a failure to recognize that state and local policy changes have already saved taxpayer dollars on unnecessary incarceration, with little or no impact on crime rates.

“I think there is a shift in the mindframe, which is unfortunate because even many conservative states have recognized that this is not the solution,” he told The Crime Report.

But the other side in the battle over the future of drug policy is equally vocal.  Many prosecutors—particularly those in sparsely populated, cash-strapped counties—view mandatory minimum sentences as a crime-fighting tool.

Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser, the District Attorney of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, says mandatory minimums are “desperately needed.”  Without them, she said in testimony in Harrisburg this week, DA’s have no “leverage” to pursue bigger game like drug kingpins.

“We have nothing to get them to sit down at a table and tell them how much time they’re going to spend in jail if they don’t move up the food chain,” she explained. “It gives smaller communities (the ability) to attack and at least fight this battle on an even playing field.”

Who will win the debate? The jury is out.

Alex Whiting, faculty co-director of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School, questions how much impact Sessions hardline strategy will have at the grassroots level, given the momentum of reform. “How far this gets implemented and with what kind of energy I think is really an open question,” he said in a recent article in The Hill.

One unknown is whether even the expected increase in federal drug prosecutions will significantly reverse the policy changes that are already underway in jurisdictions around the country.

“[The feds] could increase their volume somewhat but they don’t have the resources to take enough cases to make a big difference,” said a veteran prosecutor in Pennsylvania, who asked to comment off the record, citing office policy.

Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, the federal government technically takes precedence over state and local jurisdictions in prosecuting a number of drug and firearms offenses. However, it frequently relies heavily on local law enforcement to help build a case.

Asked what would happen if local cops and DAs simply avoided cooperating with their federal counterparts, the prosecutor conceded that such an outcome could create an unprecedented challenge for the Trump administration.

“If the case originates in the state system it would be hard for [the Feds] to just start snatching those cases,” he told The Crime Report. “They have never done that in the past.”

For the time being, Sessions’ best bet may be to stack the deck in his favor. Shortly after his confirmation he fired more than 40 U.S. Attorneys. As of last month, the Department of Justice had yet to hire a single replacement; but finding individuals who share Sessions’ drug war fervor is almost surely a top priority.

And the ultimate question is whether voters’ apparent support for Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric during the campaign will extend to policies that effectively criminalize friends and family for nonviolent drug offenses, or treat victims of the opioid crisis as a law enforcement problem rather than a health issue.

Voters (most recently in Philadelphia) have been rejecting tough-on-crime prosecutors in favor of DAs who favor more evidence-based approaches.

Nevertheless, some law enforcement officials who have spent years in the drug war’s trenches argue that still leaves room for a more focused approach—if the administration is able to resolve its mixed signals.

“There is no appetite from where I am sitting for going back to retail drug prosecutions.” said Jerry Daley, Executive Director of the Philadelphia-Camden High Intensity Drug Traffic Area (HIDTA) program.  “Nobody is really looking to prosecute those cases aggressively. But when it comes to drug traffickers, well that’s a different story.”

That opens the possibility of a re-calibrated anti-drug strategy that mixes a public health approach with aggressive pursuit of kingpins and drug cartels.

Christopher Moraff

There’s no sign of that yet, but as the Trump White House has already demonstrated, policymaking is anything but predictable.

One example: last week Washington was in a tizzy over rumors that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)—long a centerpiece of the nation’s combative drug war strategy but which has been shifting towards a public health approach under recent drug “czars”—would be gutted in the budget proposals.

When the budget details were finally made public, the ONDCP was untouched.

Christopher Moraff is a frequent contributor to The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.