Zero Tolerance

Friday, May 30th, 2008

The Washington Post’s Courtland Milloy tells the story of Frances Johnson, an elderly woman facing eviction from public housing after police arrested her grandson for gambling in the street, then found a small amount of marijuana under his mattress. The marijuana ran afoul of a “one strike” policy which holds public housing recipients accountable for crimes committed by the people living with them.

Johnson is a good example of how in additional to being cruel, the “one strike” policy is counterproductive. Johnson is known in her community for her work with at-risk youth, including taking her grandson and some other children into her home after they were traumatized after witnessing a paramilitary drug raid.

Wonder how many people in public housing will follow Johnson’s lead of mentoring to at risk kids in their homes if they risk eviction should one of those kids commit a crime?

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16 Responses to “Zero Tolerance”

  1. #1 |  Packratt | 

    In the government’s zeal to seek revenge on the public’s behalf, they themselves insist on being unaccountable for the crimes they themselves commit against the public.

    Nothing more than yet another example of “tough on crime” knee-jerk vote-whoring stupidity that creates more criminals instead of solving problems.

  2. #2 |  RWF | 

    re: Packratt’s comments

    Perfectly describing the situation in so few words!

  3. #3 |  Chris in AL | 

    Once again our government makes me embarassed and disgusted to be an American.

    I don’t see anything in the article that indicates to me any reasonable reason to have raided her home. In a more sane time, I think the raid on her home would have been considered illegal based on nothing more than the kid gambling on the street with a joint in his pocket.

    Of course, if we were a remotely free country, his gambling on the street would never have resulted in an arrest and all of this would be moot.

  4. #4 |  Against Stupidity | 

    Zero intelligence rules are for mind numb bureaucrats that don’t have the faculties or want the responsibility of actually deciding when the application of a rule is appropriate for the circumstances.
    Just make things black and white so the decision is as simple as possible. Then the bureaucrat doesn’t have to feel any guilt or remorse, they clearly violated the rule.

  5. #5 |  Alex | 

    I’ve largely quit commenting on this site because Radley started to seem like a “kooky” liberal and half the commenters seemed frankly like pederasts. But I now think Radley may just be really gullible.

    The woman was living in a subsidized apartment, not public housing. From the picture, it appears to be one of the gentrified DC neighborhoods. All landlords I’ve had could evict me if dope was found in the apartment, and I always paid market value. Also, the article mentions nothing about “taking . . . children into her home,” in the sense that phrase is normally used. It says she taught classes and let them hang out 15 years ago after a drug raid (no mention of whether it was paramilitary). One would assume from the article that her grandson living with her is not related to the drug raid. And finally, how in the hell does her grown grandson having dope in a subsidized apartment relate to mentoring at-risk youth in public housing? That’s quite a stretch.

    “Of course, if we were a remotely free country, his gambling on the street would never have resulted in an arrest and all of this would be moot.”

    I’m all for legalized gambling, but I’d prefer dice games not be played in the street. There’s better venues for that.

  6. #6 |  Mike | 

    It’s ironic that the conservatives who are often so enamored with the Bible’s harsh punishments for crimes fail to notice that the Bible makes an equally severe, if not more severe, case for protecting the potentially innocent and providing terrible punishments for those who commit injustices against the people.

    I think libertarians should develop a response to law and order types that they would be hard-pressed to ignore and be even remotely consistent: “What would Jesus do? He’d ask who your two witnesses are!”

  7. #7 |  Chris in AL | 

    Alex:

    “I’m all for legalized gambling, but I’d prefer dice games not be played in the street. There’s better venues for that.”

    I agree. Though ‘in the street’ probably does not mean in the street. We know better than that. It means a sidewalk, a stair well, an alley wall.

    And remember the good old days when a cop just said, ‘move along’ instead of arresting people at the drop of a hat?

  8. #8 |  Against Stupidity | 

    Alex,

    With comments like that, I think you should continue not commenting on this site.

  9. #9 |  Alex | 

    “Zero intelligence rules are for mind numb bureaucrats that don’t have the faculties or want the responsibility of actually deciding when the application of a rule is appropriate for the circumstances.
    Just make things black and white so the decision is as simple as possible. Then the bureaucrat doesn’t have to feel any guilt or remorse, they clearly violated the rule.”

    Did you actually read the article? The DCHA is not evicting her. The landlord is filing suits to evict. There’s only two reasons to do this: she’s a bad tenant or she’s not paying enough rent. Sometimes neighborhoods become too expensive. That’s life. Also, realize that, by proxy, her grandson is getting federal money to buy drugs and gamble.

    About the grandson being arrested: yea it’s stupid and ticky-tacky, but c’mon, he’s playing dice in the street with pot in his pocket. He might as well just stand on a corner with a sign that says “Search me, I’ve got pot.”

  10. #10 |  Alex | 

    Also, due to the amazing anonymity of the internet, I’ll admit that I used to smoke pot several times a day and still do on occasion. When people are minding there own business and they get searched without cause, I think it’s b.s. and have genuine sympathy for them. If you’re playing dice in public with pot on you, you’re a dumbass. If you have a sweetheart deal on an apartment because some silly elected officials decided you have a right to live anywhere you please, you shouldn’t complain too much if you get evicted for having drugs in your house.

  11. #11 |  Against Stupidity | 

    Alex,

    The comment was about zero tolerance rules in general. Their only purpose is to make the life of whoever is enforcing the rules easier and not to make them just.

    I certainly agree rent controls or subsidies are a bad thing under any circumstance. Your probably right the landlord is trying to get a better deal on the rent, and teenage boys are notorious dumb asses.

    Your comment about the commenters being pederasts is rude and obnoxious. Your time would be better spent somewhere else.

  12. #12 |  Against Stupidity | 

    Excuse me, her grandson is 24, still not a particularly wise age.

  13. #13 |  Alex | 

    AS,

    That comment was not directed at you or others who make reasonable posts. It was supposed to reference (which it must not have done well enough) the people who defended adult-child relationships recently and to people like JJH2 and TGGP who support (or don’t oppose) ouright infanticide. I’m sorry if I’m being rude or obnoxious, but they seem like sociopaths, and I’d personally rather be in a stall next to Larry Craig than in a room with these characters.

    “Your time would be better spent somewhere else.” Well that’s what that comment was saying, and I’m returning to retirement in one minute.

    “And remember the good old days when a cop just said, ‘move along’ instead of arresting people at the drop of a hat?”
    Yea, I also remember when kids could ride their bikes down the street without interrupting a craps game. Ahh, simpler times.

  14. #14 |  Roy | 

    There is another angle on this story that has not yet been addressed.

    Though I have some sympathy for Mrs. Johnson’s plight, if I were a legal advisor for NDC Realty, I would sue to evict her as well.

    Why?

    Because with today’s asset forfeiture laws, finding the dope in Mrs. Johnson’s apartment – no matter the source – opens up the possibility for NDC to lose the entire building to government seizure.

  15. #15 |  supercat | 

    //I think libertarians should develop a response to law and order types that they would be hard-pressed to ignore and be even remotely consistent: “What would Jesus do? He’d ask who your two witnesses are!”//

    Interesting notion, though today forensic sciences often take the place of eyewitnesses; when administered fairly, they’re probably more accurate than eyewitnesses, though fair administration is hardly a given.

    That ties into something else I’ve wondered: for the Constitution’s “oath or affirmation” requirement for search warrants to mean anything, it must refer to an oaths and affirmations related to personal knowledge sufficient to yield probable cause. The Constitution doesn’t expressly say that, but that’s because the framers would have thought the requirement to be so obvious it could go without saying. When, and by what court, was the Constitution amended /de facto/ to remove the personal-knowledge requirement?

  16. #16 |  Thomas Jackson | 

    What me worry about my actions or those who I am responsible for? Accountability? Its not my job.

    Throw her ass out. I’ll bet she was so old she never detected the odors coming out of junior’s room. Yeah right. My heart bleeds.

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