Sunday, November 15, 2009

Take a look, it's in a book...

 We can't stop it.
Not with all the lawyers, guns, and money in this word. Not with guilt or morality or righteous indignation. Not with crime summits, ro task forces or committees. Not with policy decision made in places that can't be seen from the lost corner of Fayette and Monroe. No lasting victory in the war on drugs can be bought by doubling the number of beat cops or tripling the number of prison beds. No peace can come from kingpin statutes and civil forfeiture laws and warrantless searches and whatever the hell else is about to be tossed into next year's omnibus bill.

Down on Fayette Street, they know.

The corner is rooted in human desire--crude and certain and immediate. And the hard truth is that all the law enforcement in the world can't mess with desire. Down at Fayette and Monroe and every corner like it in Baltimore, the dealers and fiends have won because they are legion. They've won because the state of Maryland and the federal government have imprisoned thousands and arrested terns of thousands and maybe a hundred thousand on the parole and probation rolls--and still it isn't close to enough. By raw demographics, the men and women of the corners can claim victory. In Baltimore alone--a city of fewer than seven hundred thousand souls, with some of the highest recorded rates of intravenous drug use in the nation--they are fifty, perhaps even sixty thousand strong--three of them for every available prison bed in the entire state of Maryland. The slingers are manning more than a hundred open-air corners, serving up product as fast as they can get it off a southbound Metroliner. And the fiends are chasing down that blast twenty-four, seven.

In neighborhoods where no other wealth exists, they have constructed an economic engine so powerful that they'll readily sacrifice everything to it. And make no mistake: that engine is humming. No slacking profit margins, no recessions, no bad quarterly reports, no layoffs, no naturalized unemployment rate. In the empty heart of our cities, the culture of drugs has created a wealth-generating structure so elemental and enduring that it can legitimately be called a social compact.

From the outside looking in, it's tempting to see this nightmare as a model of supply and demand run amok, as a lawlessness bred from an unenforceable prohibition. But the reckoning at Fayette and Monroe and other places like it has grown into something greater than the medical mechanics of addition, greater even than the dollars and sense of economic theory. (57-58)

Simon, David, and Edward Burns. The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. New York: Broadway Books, 1997. Print.