In the next issue of Wisconsin Super Lawyers & Rising Stars magazine, Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer Dennis P. Coffey of Mawicke & Goisman, talks about what he’s learned from his more than 400 jury trials. In this blog-exclusive portion of the Q&A, Coffey, below, talks about the disconnect between state budgets and the War on Drugs:
There are voices now being raised that suggest that the War on Drugs, is probably, with Vietnam, the second war we’ve lost. We haven’t accomplished anything. We have thrown billions of dollars at interdiction; and I don’t know how to explain this to the United States government but there are still people who are able to get a hold of very large quantities of controlled substances.
But in the long run I don’t think anyone is going to say, “Hey, wait a minute, the mistake we’re making here is we’re incarcerating too many people.” Politically, that’s just not a message anyone is going to hear. But there are reasoned voices now starting to crop up, that say, “Just incarcerating people isn’t really dealing with the problem and it certainly is not a wise investment or expenditure of funds when we’re so short on everything else.”
Now having just said that: The governor of this state, who nationally has raised some inspiration recently [laughs], he signed a bill in late July that cancels or throws out an early release program for the Wisconsin state prisons. No statistical study, no hard-rock “this isn’t working” study in support of getting rid of it. But politically it was popular. If you were to talk to almost any local residents, they’d say “Keep those drug dealers in prison.” They don’t ever equate “keeping them in prison” with the financial problems state budgets are experiencing. There’s just no connect. And, you know, that’s true of a lot of issues in the country.