Universal Healthcare, Police Brutality, Marijuana Policy
- July 12 -
STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D.,
Associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians
for a National Health Program, Woolhandler is co-author of a just-released study,
"Paying for National Health Insurance -- And Not Getting It." She said today:
"We pay the world's highest health-care taxes. But much of the money is squandered.
The wealthy get tax breaks. And HMOs and drug companies pocket billions in profits
at the taxpayers' expense. But politicians claim we can't afford universal coverage.
Every other developed nation has national health insurance. We already pay for
it, but we don't get it.... Government expenditures accounted for 59.8 percent
of total U.S. health-care costs in 1999. At $2,604 per capita, government spending
was the highest of any nation -- including those with national health insurance.
Indeed, government health spending in the U.S. exceeded total health spending
(government plus private) in every other country except Switzerland."
Senior policy analyst with the Open Society Institute on legal affairs, Taifa
said today: "A variety of factors contribute to the quandary of police brutality;
among them, unfettered police discretion, the infamous 'code of silence,' inadequate
disciplinary measures, and police corruption. The abuse of discretion is evident
by the disproportionate number of people of color arrested, assaulted, and terrorized
by police, which often occurs as police administer 'street justice,' a phenomenon
when police serve as judge, jury and executioner, inflicting judgment and punishment
when they feel ignored, provoked, or have to give chase. This street justice is
exacerbated by an organizational feature seemingly unique to police structure
-- as one goes down the police hierarchy, discretion increases. A halt needs to
be placed on this abuse of discretion, through the institution of sufficient discipline,
quashing of the code of silence, and independent civilian oversight. Finally,
the issue of police corruption needs to be seriously addressed, as direct links
have been found between police brutality and corruption."
Assistant director of The Sentencing Project and co-editor of the just-released
book Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment,
Mauer said today: "The recent move to decriminalize marijuana possession in England
once again demonstrates that much of the industrialized world is far ahead of
the U.S. in developing rational drug policies. Nearly half of the 1.5 million
drug arrests annually in the U.S. are for marijuana, and of these, 88 percent
are for possession. This massive commitment of resources, along with two decades
of harsher sentencing policies developed in the name of the 'war on drugs,' has
contributed to the unprecedented growth in the inmate population, one quarter
of which is composed of drug offenders. Not only have these policies distracted
attention and resources from more constructive approaches to drug abuse, but they
have created massive racial disparities in enforcement and imprisonment, with
four of every five drug offender inmates being African American or Hispanic."
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