Drugs and Violence – Article by Shima Baradaran

From Volume 88, Number 2 (January 2015)

The war on drugs has increased the U.S. prison population by tenfold. The foundation for the war on drugs, and this unparalleled increase in prisoners, relies on the premise that drugs and violence are causally linked. Politicians, media, and scholars continue to advocate this view either explicitly or implicitly. This Article identifies the pervasiveness of this premise and questions the link between drugs and violence. It demonstrates that a causal connection between drugs and violence is unsupported by historical arrest data, current research, or independent empirical evidence. That there is little evidence to support the assumption that drugs cause violence is an important insight, as the assumed causal link between drugs and violence forms the foundation of a significant amount of case law, statutes, and commentary.

In particular, the presumed connection between drugs and violence has reduced constitutional protections, misled government resources, and resulted in the unnecessary incarceration of a large proportion of nonviolent Americans. In short, if drugs do not cause violence—and the empirical evidence discussed in this Article suggests they do not and that the connection is quite complicated—then America needs to rethink its entire approach to drug policy.



The New York Safe Act: A Thoughtful Approach to Gun Control, or a Politically Expedient Response to the Public’s Fear of the Mentally Ill? – Postscript (Note) by Matthew Gamsin

From Volume 88, Number 2 (January 2015)

This Note will first review the historical development of gun-control laws in the United States, including those referred to by the Supreme Court as “longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by . . . the mentally ill.” It will then analyze the extent to which the SAFE Act differs from such longstanding prohibitions and whether the Act is constitutional. Finally, this Note will consider whether, regardless of its constitutionality, the SAFE Act is an appropriate legislative response to gun violence or whether a recent proposal by a group of national experts on mental illness and gun violence might be more effective and more likely to pass constitutional muster.



The Researcher’s Second Laboratory: Protecting Our Children from Social Surveys in Public Schools in Light of Fields v. Palmdale School District – Note by Jesse Fu

From Volume 80, Number 3 (March 2007)

Vanessa Shetler was shocked to learn what her eight-year-old son went through one seemingly ordinary day in his third-grade class. After coming home from school, Ms. Shetler’s son informed his mother that instead of spending the day learning math and reading, he was asked by the school how frequently he thought about having sex or touching other people’s “private parts.” Had these questions been presented as part of a routine sex and health education program for elementary school students, perhaps Ms. Shetler would not have been so upset. These questions, however, were not a part of such a program. Instead, the school, in collaboration with a mental health counselor, distributed a survey containing numerous sexually charged questions to some of its students. The survey asked students how often they thought about washing themselves because they felt dirty inside or if they ever had “sex feelings” in their bodies, for example. What is more, it asked if they ever thought that they touched their own “private parts” too much and if they ever could not stop thinking about sex.

Ms. Shetler was just one out of many parents who became outraged because of the survey and believed that the questions were “putting poison into kids’ minds” because it discussed sex and other subjects that third graders should not be learning about. The survey was not given solely to third graders, however – first and fifth graders were also asked to answer these same questions. The school claimed that the survey was designed to establish a baseline for measuring trauma in children, for the purpose of ascertaining any impediments to the students’ abilities to absorb material in school. Unpersuaded by the school’s rationale, parents claimed that the survey was inappropriate and, in response, filed suit against the school district.



Rxxx: Resolving the Problem of Performer Health and Safety in the Adult Film Industry – Note by Maria de Cesare

From Volume 79, Number 3 (March 2006)

No matter how much fascination it may provide to the lives of the lonely, the curious, the adventurous, or the ordinary, it is undeniable that pornography poses problems. This statement is not startling or revolutionary; no other industry has unfailingly produced equal parts astounding revenue, excitement, shame, and fear among every echelon of society. For decades, the adult film industry has operated a thriving worldwide empire centered in Southern California, generating billions of dollars in revenue and producing thousands of films per year. Notwithstanding its status as one of the largest industries in a heavily regulated state, the adult film industry has flourished for decades without a discernible trace of government oversight. In recent years, however, a particularly insidious problem within the industry has perched itself precariously at the threshold of the public consciousness and has threatened to end the government’s historical indifference toward the industry’s practices.

In the spring of 2004, a spate of HIV infections among performers in the Southern California adult film industry induced a panic when it was discovered that over sixty performers had been exposed to the disease. In response to the potential outbreak, several major pornography companies voluntarily halted production for several weeks, and over fifty performers who had been identified as having sexual intercourse with the infected performers agreed to place themselves on a “quarantine list,” ceasing all adult film work while awaiting their HIV test results. Although the industry’s proactive response managed to contain the infection’s spread, the crisis sharply called into question the adequacy of current screening and testing procedures in the adult film industry, and underscored the need for increased preventative measures.