The War on Crime, not crime itself, fueled Detroit’s post-1967 decline

Prison bars being held tightly in both of a person's hands

Heather Ann Thompson has been in the news recently because of the success of her new book, “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy,” a nonfiction finalist this year for the National Book Award.

But Thompson is also a nationally respected expert on mass incarceration and through her research has reached some provocative conclusions about the role Michigan’s criminal laws have played in Detroit’s slow-motion economic collapse in the decades following the 1967 uprisings.

For the most part, academics attribute the city’s abandonment, poverty and decay to the disappearance of high-paying industrial jobs, white flight, discrimination in housing and employment, and government decisions that favored suburban development.

Thompson, though, argues that historians and others have missed an additional cause of Detroit’s unraveling: the rise since the mid-1960s of aggressive policing in black neighborhoods, along with laws that vastly increased prison sentences and the subsequent explosion of Michigan’s inmate population. That resulted in large numbers of people -- mostly black males -- yanked out of Detroit, orphaned children and collapsing neighborhoods.

Thompson, a University of Michigan professor of history who lived in Detroit as a teenager and graduated from Cass Tech, laid out her argument in a 2013 article for the Journal of Law in Society, “Unmaking the Motor City in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” She wrote that the nation’s War on Crime “undid the crucial strides that Detroit had made when it finally desegregated its schools, its police department, and its places of work. Indeed, countless victories of the tumultuous civil rights era were ultimately undone by the rise of a massive carceral state and the realities of mass incarceration.”

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

In the mid-1960s, crime appeared to be rising in Detroit, homicides were ticking up, then 1967 happened. Crime became a big issue, and in 1974, Detroit Mayor Coleman Young took office and homicides hit an all-time high, 714. A lot of people see crime as one of the major reason people left Detroit. You have a different explanation.

I think across the nation, the idea is that cities are emptied out, particularly of their white residents and their more affluent residents because crime goes out of control. And certainly Detroit is seen as Ground Zero where that happened. But as a historian, I had the chance to really go back and unpack this, not just decade by decade, but actually year by year and really ask the question, for example ‘Was crime really on the rise prior to the rebellion of ’67? And was that the reason for why we see an outflux of residents?

And in fact, it was not. We see very clearly that, certainly under Mayor Cavanagh, it looks for a moment, especially after 1965, that crime is ticking up, but there is whole back story here, which is, number one, the Johnson Administration had incentivized counting crime in such a way with its new war on crime measures, to incentivize showing that you had an uptick in crime.

The mayor himself, the head of the police department himself, both went public and said, ‘No, it’s actually not that we have a rise in crime ... we’re now reporting it differently.’ And so the irony of ironies is that we begin this intensive policing that will really lead to the rebellion and we begin these really corrosive practices in cities like in Detroit – in advance of a crime problem. But then, of course, we really do get a crime problem because we get a war of drugs, which, like Prohibition much earlier in the century, illegal economies are dangerous economies, they are economies of desperation, they are accompanied by violence, they are accompanied by crime.

But, notably, when urban Detroiters are most suffering the crime problem, white residents are already long gone. They had already long left the city. So it is a bit of a chicken and egg question, and it’s an important one as to what happens when.

You use the term that authorities “criminalized urban space.” What does that mean?

Essentially in this country, really in response to civil rights rebellions that preceded Detroit, the federal government began articulating the northern civil rights problem as a crime problem, as a problem of disorder and crime. This is where we get the first clamorings for a war on crime. So it actually begins under Johnson, not Nixon; it is a moment when we start to see urban space in particular, but particularly black neighborhoods, or Latino neighborhoods, as inherently criminalistic. This is where the police are deployed – by the way, not because that’s where the most drugs are, not even close to where the most drugs are – but this is the perception that is where the crime/disorder problem is.

And that process I call the ‘criminalization of urban space’ is because what it literally meant was that things that had not been illegal before become illegal, things that had been illegal before but had very slight penalties start to have much higher and higher penalties, and have much longer time in jail. And pretty soon, cities like Detroit -- and Detroit is a mostly black city -- but black neighborhoods in other cities, become these sites of intense criminalization, intensive policing that turn creates it own social crisis.

Of all the problems Detroit faced – the deindustrialization, white flight, etc. -- is there a way to quantify where mass incarceration fits in as far as a cause of Detroit’s decline? How big a problem was that?

We can never underestimate the negative impact of either deindustrialization or white flight. For example, it is deindustrialization that will lead so many impoverished communities to rely on the drug economy, for example. But as important as both of those things are, we have also given short shrift to the punitive turn -- the embrace of mass incarceration -- had in destroying cities like Detroit. And the evidence is quite clear. If you look at any map of the city and you look at where some of the most intensive policing took hold, they are the most decimated communities.

Because it isn’t just about not having jobs, or it’s not just about the space being all African American, it’s about spaces where all the adults have been emptied out, spaces where even when folks return they are permanently unemployable because of their record, and spaces were without jobs the drug economy again becomes the primary economy, which has its own trauma.



So these are sites of orphaned children whose parents are in the system. It’s the sites of newly impoverished children. And frankly what we see is that (in) so many of these families who are losing parents through incarceration, we have created this never-never world where essentially you can never get out of it. Some folks will say, "Well, if they cared about their kids they wouldn’t have done whatever it is to land them in the system."

But I want to remind everyone that we only know that they are doing the things because that’s where the police are. Other communities who are doing these things never have this presence of law enforcement. But also because we render them permanently unemployable, because of their record, it becomes this vicious cycle (where) devastation is the ultimate result for the city, but also for real individuals and families in the city.

From virtually the mid-‘70s on, Detroit had a black mayor, a black chief of police, a majority black department and black citizens calling for more police as the DPD shrunk. How does that phenomenon square with what you’re saying?

On the surface it sees to be contradictory that you could have racialized policing and a war on crime that begins for deeply racialized reasons and then say, at the same time, that it ends up destroying a city led by black officials. Because, of course, why would they participate in that kind of process?

This is where we need to understand a couple of things. By the time we get to Mayor Young, by the time we get to his long reign as mayor, any resources that cities can have are in the criminal justice system. You’re not going to find resources in the social service sector, you’re not going to find them through health, education and welfare; you’re going to find them through the Justice Department. And urban locales, whether they’re run by black mayors or white, quickly understand that the way to get support for fiscal management is via essentially crime-fighting dollars.

Number two: police departments are incentivized to become more militaristic, to become more aggressive in their policing because their arrest figures, in turn, command more dollars from the federal government. And, to be honest, the community then ends up in a position of saying, ‘Yes: High crime rates! Violence!’ There’s no one left to call, frankly, but the police. You have a drug-addicted son, and 20 years previously you might have had a social service apparatus where you could get help for that son. But by the time we get to the eighties, and we are dealing with an addiction crisis with crack cocaine, the only one who’s going to show up when you call is the police.

So the community is very tortured and very torn about how do we deal with this social crisis when the only tools at our disposal given to us by our mayor, given to us by our president, are really crime-fighting tools, not public health tools, not social service tools.

Did (Detroit Mayor) Jerry Cavanagh and the police chiefs then manipulate crime data when they changed the way they categorized crimes? What’s the right way to look at that?

I think that’s certainly open to interpretation. What happens after 1965 is that there are newly available resources for police departments. First for states and for cities but quite directly for police departments that had a need, that could show that they needed federal dollars to help fight crime. And for fiscally savvy departments, and ultimately for fiscally strapped departments, arguing that you needed a SWAT team, arguing you needed flak jackets, arguing you needed helicopters is what is going to be heard. So in Detroit, there’s a wrinkle that I’m not sure many citizens really thought about: STRESS [the police department’s controversial violent-crime unit] becomes one of the most important problems for the black community in the wake of the rebellion.

That’s this undercover decoy unit in the police department that black citizens certainly think of as a vigilante force, going out and having far too many fatalities to its credit. STRESS in many respects comes to exist because of this new war on crime. And mind you it’s predating a crime problem. This is what allows for funding. This is what allows for those kind of undercover operations, the police operations, helicopter operations.

So did they manipulate the data? I don’t know. They certainly became more savvy to understand that if you called it a burglary rather than a larceny, or a home invasion as opposed to a burglary (your department received more money)... Is it a murder? Is it a manslaughter? Is it intentional? These nuances are quantifiable and … you need to have the arrest figures but you also need to have the crime problem to justify the resources.

Does your research show if Detroit had a true crime problem in the early 1970s, when STRESS was formed?

Not anywhere near what the press would have had you believe. And nowhere near what will become the crisis facing Detroit by the ‘80s. But yes, crime is ticking upwards as jobs are leaving and resources are leaving. But this too is connected to the policies of the criminal justice system. One of the things that happens between between ’67 and ’72 is this intensification of policing of black spaces in the wake of the rebellion.

Remember during the rebellion people are rounded up; there are gymnasiums full of people who are arrested, and that pattern, that trend, of arresting potential troublemakers doesn’t go away. In fact, one of the reasons we get a new mayor, Roman Gribbs in 1969, is because he is running on a very tough law-and-order program, even though the stats are not showing Detroit is in trouble with crime. But it is certainly coming apart at the seams in terms of race relations.”

This subject is more than academic. You grew up in Detroit. But you have written you were late in understanding how mass incarceration played out.

Right. My first book was about Detroit in the ‘60s and ‘70s and chronicles the story that will lead to the election of Mayor Young. And it’s chock full of stories about policing, arrests, about criminalizing urban space, but I didn’t quite see it that way until years later. And one of the reasons that is the case is that I lived in Detroit, and when you’re in it, when you’re experiencing historical moments and you’re in the center of them, you don’t have depth perception, you don’t quite know what’s happening.

I graduated from Cass Tech High School in 1981, and I can remember the drug war was all round us. Friends of mine were getting arrested; they were going away. These were not people who actually did drugs. These were friends of mine who were just trying to survive on a very, very low level, maybe marijuana transactions, and they were all going away. They were all getting arrested. And it’s so ironic, because back in that time we would say, ‘So-and-so, what an idiot! Why didn’t he get his act together and instead go to college?’ We didn’t understand we were in the middle of one of the biggest buildups of criminal justice resources in human history.

We didn’t understand that we were in the middle of mass incarceration. We didn’t understand that we were locking up more Americans than at any other time in our history. So it took me a while as a historian, frankly, to step back from it enough and be able to look at my own city and say, you know, absolutely deindustrialization was a crisis, and so was white flight, but we have missed the elephant in the room. We waged an aggressive war on crime on the most vulnerable population we could have waged it on and destroyed families, destroyed communities and, frankly, emptied out the city of its census population as those people are now all counted at prisons in Jackson or Ionia. And then we said, "Oh my God. Look what happened to Detroit. What did black leaders do to Detroit?"

It took me awhile to have enough depth perception to see that this was a much more complicated problem than even I thought it was.

Do you have any critics about your view of how mass incarceration affected Detroit?

No. Not really. I describe it not as the end-all, be-all solution but as the elephant in the room. I think it’s this thing that’s happened all around us, it’s happened to us. We have only just now begun to understand what the ramifications of it are. I don’t think anyone disputes that it is devastating. I leave it to the economists and social scientists and the number crunchers to actually map out exactly what the correlation is in terms of the impact, but nobody disagrees. You just simply need to look at a map of the east side of Detroit, a community like Brewer Park, and you need to get in our car and drive through that area. And you quickly understand that it isn’t just that there are no factories or it isn’t just that there are no white faces there. That this is about a profound emptying-out of a community in the name of public safety and it has in fact made us less safe, at least in those communities that are suffering and most directly affected.


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Kevin Ford
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 11:45am
Like Dr. Thompson I am a Cass Tech Graduate and Native Detroiter. Her observations and thesis on the issues that fueled Detroit's decline are very insightful. After High school I lived in Flint, Pontiac Township, Novi, Indianapolis, Canton, Chicago, Northville, and Cleveland. Other than Flint none of those cities have suffered as much as Detroit. Until reading this article I never imagined that so many more people were in prison in 2016 vs 1970. I saw the impact on the neighborhoods as good jobs continued to move out of the city. The solution to the decline might be occurring now with strong downtown development and reinvestment in the neighborhoods and more well employed people in the population. I have Friends in other cities that didn't experience what Detroit went through and they don't understand the complex issues that lead to the current state. The work and thesis from Dr Thompson helps make what has happened a little clearer.
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 12:28pm
Dr. Thompson has done a great job in giving us a historical picture of what has gone on in Detroit. Understanding this in the context of the issues of today is so important. The incarceration statistics for this state are mind numbing. $2billion dollars being spent on incarceration. We must do better than this. Generations have been impacted by these policies and we must come up with better solutions.
Kevin Grand
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 1:46pm
Interesting piece. Now, what about the flip-side of the equation? What effect has the litany of social programs had on the problems that they were reportedly created to prevent? When the onus is taken away from individual responsibility, to one where the government will step in a take care of everything for you, is it any wonder why any of the societal ills mentioned above have gotten worse?
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 3:31pm
So the Black Detroit community, and eventually Detroit itself, collapsed because a fraction of a fraction of a demographic was aggressively jailed??
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 4:11pm
I will never believe that enforcing laws has caused the decay of Detroit. This is more anti-law enforcement BS. But go ahead, publish it on FB and then it is true.
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 4:41pm
It seems like we always want to blame others, or the "system", for our condition, pain or lack of wealth. I agree that the cause and effect is complicated, and it is many times a chicken and egg thing. But, it is always about personal accountability. Few believe that there is no absolute right and wrong. When we teach our kids that right and wrong is any way they want to define it, and act that way ourselves, then how can we expect any kind of order. When you don't have any rules, and refuse to accept the rules of order that civilized society have adopted . . . don't be surprised when chaos happens! Few, and I do believe few, are arrested, imprisoned, or shot for obeying the rules and being honest with authority figures like our law enforcement officers.
Wed, 10/19/2016 - 9:54am
Yeah, we're not talking about fabric of the community people being jailed, we're talking about criminals. People left Detroit in part because neighborhood desirability and crime doesn't help that.
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 4:48pm
Oh --- one more thing. You want to empty out our prisons and save a lot of money? Let's all agree to start obeying the laws of the land, whether we agree with them or not. We could cut our prison population dramatically in one lifetime; not to mention the savings we might achieve in less spending on law enforcement!
Michigan Taxpayer
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 6:03pm
Some of the stats, even for they naysayer just jump off the page: 1984: Prison population is 14,658. 1985-1992: Michigan builds 23 prisons. 23 Prisons ! Looking back (and realizing it takes a few years for Laws to impact statistics: June 1971: President Richard Nixon declares illegal narcotics to be the nation’s Public Enemy No. 1, and the War on Drugs begins in earnest. 1974: Detroit’s worst year for homicides – 714. 1974: State prison population is 8,630 inmates. Finally, the most staggering stat given the decline in violent crime 2006: Rate of violent crime in Michigan has dropped 30 percent since 1986, but number of prisoners grew by 250 percent: 2006: Prison population is 51,454, the all-time high, a 631 percent increase over 1967. 631% -- that is exponential (emm, at the same time violent crime went DOWN 30% So you Michian Taxpayers for the past 30-40 years-- your paying over 2 Billion $$ to lock up NON violent "criminals" -- read "drug crimes".... So Schools are underfunded in clear correlation to spending so much money locking "drug criminals" (mostly probably marijuana with Habitual criminal laws -- ala "the bitch" --that on paper looks right and proper = more convictions = more time -- However, without any reference to WHICH CRIMEs it is stupid. Stupid and expensive. Very very expensive. Unsustainable. Tow more caveats: 2015: Gov. Rick Snyder signs laws to create a Justice Policy Commission to make recommendations to the legislature on sentencing reform. So, many of those "criminals" because Defense Attys get $300 for a felony case, and the Prosecutor/Police get what 20 to 30 TIMES that amount, means many, indeed most, were not guilty or not guilty as charged (they always overcharge and then plea) because no one tested in a REAL adverserial manner, the evidence submitted....slam dunk conviction....yeah they are all innocent is the saying, sad thing is probably a major amount WERE ! They simply were poor and could not even have a chance -- 2016: Michigan prisons contain 41,413 inmates, a 20-percent drop from 2006. Still, and again without equal funding into defense vs. prosecution FUNDING is a tilted courtroom -- So the bottom line Michigan spends much more to incarcerate the educate -- and people wonder while the "brain drain" in Michigan has the youngest, brightest, FLEE the minute they can get out of here? It's really just sad - concentrate on Murder, Rape, Robbery, Home Invasions, Violent criminals, but We did not do that, we or they concentrated on the easiest thing -- pot -- and now when We the few well educated that remained in Mich to TRY to fix it, guess what -- the Courts say Petition Signatures are "stale" after 6 months even though we now have computerized Voter files that can verify and scrub the Marijuana Legalization Petition Signatures that "might" be no longer valid -- The bottom line, IMHO, the "War on Drugs" so corrupted everything it even had a tangential connection to: err, Law Enforcement, Courts, the system stopped functioning as it should (and did in the 1950s perhaps) so that until we remove this "funding" it will remain corrupt and tilted. Look at Portugal -- (and we have not even looked at Lead Based Gas (and Paint) ended in 1972 so it too took a couple years to fade out -- but if you graph Lead percentages next to the crime rate (and drop post 1970s) you will see what I mean, just google it ...LEAD, known since the Roman times to make Humans nuts (criminals) and once it was by law removed, guess what, crime rates dropped by 30%.... Comments from the real brainy people? Rebut a colossal failure and waste of Billions? not to mention waste of lives?
Michigan Taxpayer
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 6:19pm
Michigan Observer
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 6:24pm
The professor says, "But, notably, when urban Detroiters are most suffering the crime problem, white residents are already long gone." I would have liked to have seen a graphic showing crime rates and percentage of white citizens. That would have thrown light on her assertion about being long gone by the time Detroiters were suffering their worst crime problem. It is very possible that the crime rate was sufficiently high for long enough to have driven out whites and more affluent blacks long before crime reached its worst. She says of the black and Latino neighborhoods "This is where the police are deployed – by the way, not because that’s where the most drugs are, not even close to where the most drugs are – but this is the perception that is where the crime/disorder problem is." Isn't it possible that is in fact where the crime problem was? Wouldn't that be a sensible deployment of police resources? She says, "If you look at any map of the city and you look at where some of the most intensive policing took hold, they are the most decimated communities." Isn't it possible that a severe crime problem was responsible for both the "intensive policing" and the "decimated communities"? Mr. McGraw asked, "From virtually the mid-‘70s on, Detroit had a black mayor, a black chief of police, a majority black department and black citizens calling for more police as the DPD shrunk." She evades the question by saying, "By the time we get to Mayor Young, by the time we get to his long reign as mayor, any resources that cities can have are in the criminal justice system." But weren't those precisely the resources that were needed? Apparently she doesn't believe so, disagreeing with the black mayor, black chief of police and black citizens. Obviously, she believes that, as a bright, highly educated professor, her judgment is superior to theirs. She says, "You’re not going to find resources in the social service sector, you’re not going to find them through health, education and welfare; you’re going to find them through the Justice Department." It may very well be that social services are of value in the long run, but in the meantime, people are dying. The officials and citizens of Detroit may not have had the benefit of her intelligence, insights and education, but in this case they had better sense. The late law professor, William J. Stuntz, in his excellent book "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice" pointed out that there is an inverse relationship between the number of policemen per thousand citizens not only with the crime rate, but the prison population. That is, significantly more policemen resulted in both a lower crime rate, and a lower incarceration rate. Several times she characterizes the events in Detroit and other cities in the late sixties as rebellions. That is not the case. "Rebellion" implies organization, planning, intent. These were all spontaneous riots. There is little doubt that the war on drugs was an enormous mistake. But it should be noted that the Congressional Black Caucus advocated tough penalties for drug offenses, particularly for crack cocaine which they regarded as particularly destructive of the black community.
Wed, 10/19/2016 - 9:56am
UM professors are in the business of being liberal to the point of being countercultural.
Tue, 10/18/2016 - 9:26pm
Professor Thompson makes fair points about the way crime is reported and funded by the federal government and how that has altered the way people viewed(s) crime and where it was perceived to be happening. I wonder was that unintended consequences or as it turns out a means of shifting reliance to the federal politicians and a means to make local governments and communities more dependent on the federal agencies. I wonder how the Aid to Dependent Children [ADC] that was developed at the time [Johnson Administration] fit or reinforced this shift in model for funding/control and what seems to be a separation from results. I believe that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan [back in 1965] described the path that communities such as Detroit have followed even before the ‘Great Society’ which was political vehicle for implementing this funding and control of social programs model. I am concerned that current events/politics may be weighing to heavily on history and risk obscuring some of the lessons we might learn from it and prevent us from better identifying unintended consequences of legislative actions. I do see how the approach to crime shifted how communities gained access to additional funds changed how communities addressed their neighbors. I also see how that same model is used for social programs and how that shifted local practices away from a more intimate/responsive approach and from results. I can even see how this led to shifting of community cultures and impact on individuals and their roles/responsibilities. I encourage Professor Thompson to develop these ideas into grant proposals for Foundations such as the Kellogg or other Michigan Foundations to assess how federal funding such as the crime programs impacts our current problems. My concerns are two; politicians/NGOs/community leaders/organizers look for the funding and what it takes to garner that funding before they look to define the problem and how to address the problems locally [more personally]. My other concern is that the farther away those establishing the criteria for funding are from the problem the less results matter. I think research built from Professor Thompson’s thesis could do much to help us change the impact such programs may have.
Wed, 10/19/2016 - 11:16am
Blacks don't use drugs at a higher rate that white people. In fact they use less. If police were busting down the doors of white people with as much fervor as in black communities there would be an extreme backlash. It would be met with a huge political squawk to start busting down 9 foot high, solid oak doors in Grosse Pointe and arresting someone for using powder cocaine versus crack cocaine so there was a racist and discriminatory disparity in sentencing laws for equal amounts of possession of crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. One might argue that there was more violence in the inner cities with crack cocaine but I would contend that the higher police force and the drug based economy in impoverished communities versus affluent communities and suburbs led to extreme violence. When you are competing for the same customers and the same turf in selling drugs, murders occur. Check your history books of what happened between competing mobsters and crime families during Al Capone's days. I always laugh when I read some of the comments from people in these forums. People of obvious privilege who believe; "because it ain't happening to me, it ain't happening anywhere else." If you really want a lesson in how criminals are produced, try going hungry and jobless for long stretches of time and see what you will do to survive. For an example of this check out the history of the Great Depression, Prohibition and a time that was ripe for creating criminality for survival. Many moonshiners sold "shine" to support their families in an economy that created massive desperation.Not saying that all people resort to crime but then you don't live in black communities and aren't black so you will never know what they have went through. Neither have I because I am one of privilege. It's hard not to be bitter these days for an incarcerated person as they see a softening of drug policies, but only because the huge prescription opiate and now heroin crisis that is running rampant, without any discrimination on race, socioeconomic status, education, etc. If you want to see change in society, piss off women. An example of this is; how many remember the police following you home in the 60's and 70's after you maybe had too much to drink. Or maybe even taking you home. After enough deaths on the highway from drunk drivers, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) was formed. They marched on Washington like you would not believe. they mobilized, contacted their representatives and pushed for laws against drunk driving, thereby witnessing the increase in arrests, prosecution, incarceration of drunk drivers. You don't see too many people being taken home by police officers today for a little over imbibing. You get a trip to the local police station for booking. The same thing is happening today with the rise in opiate overdose deaths. I was in Washington last October and 70-100,00 people were there to bring awareness to the opiate crisis. Hundreds of mothers carried pictures of their deceased sons and daughters with them. They are demanding that Washington steps in and starts doing something about the opiate crisis. At present there are 125 daily deaths from opiate overdoses in America. That is the equivalent of a 747 crashing every 4 days, killing everyone on board. How's that for the individual responsibility theorists who wish to disregard antecedent conditions? If a 747 were to crash with that kind of frequency in America today you can be damn sure that we would be clamoring in Washington for better airline safety. Several commenters tout individual responsibility here yet that shows an extreme lack of knowledge of the human brain, pleasure/reward mechanism for satisfying hunger, thirst and procreating our species, the powerful painkillers being produced by pharmaceutical industries, the marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry, the Joint Commission for hospitals insistence of the under treatment of pain several years ago which threatened accreditation for hospitals, the huge lobbying influence which pharmaceutical companies have in Washington today, etc. Its kind of like the alcohol industry's creative advertising slogan of; "Drink Responsibly" as it advertises the only way for youth to have fun is with alcohol to fuel it. They know through much research that most of their marketing is done for a small market; alcoholics who consume much of their product. So rather than acknowledging that their product causes social ills through alcoholism and taking any responsibility for being a part of that, they lay it on the individual themselves by saying to the alcoholic; "All you do is lack responsibility." This way simplistic answers can come out for complex issues; "Individual Responsibility." The overuse of alcohol causes dis-inhibition fueling violence, sexual assaults, drunk driving, property damage, etc in our communities. It's no wonder why alcohol companies wish to divest themselves of any of the responsibility associated with the consumption of their product. Besides, our state and federal government gets to collect the taxes associated with the use of these products, just like the tobacco products which their CEO's testified before congress many years ago that their product was not addictive; wink, wink. Easy to see why Faux News can spill out 24/7/365 propaganda and people with a lack of critical thinking skills can allow our country to be taken over by oligarchs, while their way of life is rapidly eroding and they cannot connect the dots. But, I digress from my original points. If you think we have true justice in this country, think again. I love it when moralists start being sanctimonious and discussing individual responsibility. I definitely know that I am not pure and I was raised with a very strict Catholic upbringing. That did not stop me from early smoking, drinking, drugging, chasing skirts, etc. Did I commit crimes; absolutely! Did I get caught? Yes! But I was taken home when intoxicated, let go because I was friends with the cop who stopped me for drunk driving, not caught for the little drug dealing I did to support my own habit, let off easily by a judge when I was 16 and I had ran my fathers car in to a parking meter while intoxicated, not caught for the hundreds of times I had driven so drunk that it was amazing I never killed anyone, let off with a misdemeanor in the military for a small possession of marijuana, etc. Others here could afford to post bond and never had to cop a plea to get out of jail so they could return to what meager employment they had, leaving them with a record. Others had real good lawyers, instead of the overworked public defender. In truth, how many here can say that they never broke the law or continue to do so. I drove 75-80 mph going to and from Minneapolis last week and never got caught. You can steal more in a suit and tie than many we persecute and prosecute for low level offenses. try getting a job after being labeled a felon and experience what is called collateral consequences; meaning you will never be forgiven once labeled a felon. There used to be something called forgiveness and mercy in this country. And also a term called rehabilitation. Once you served your time you had paid your dues. Now you pay for the rest of your life. I'll give you a classic example of justice today in America. An addict likes to use with others. People are social animals and very few like to use alone. Misery loves company. Because they want to be liked just like you and I do, they share their drugs or buy with the idea that they can sell some to their friends and get high with them. Now one of them overdoses and dies. Unfortunately there is no quality control as there is with the United States government monitoring the quality and purity of the drugs which we take. Heroin is cut with other chemicals to stretch out a batch, increase profitability, decrease the strength, etc. The person is charged with criminal manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in prison. I was deeply saddened when I saw a case this past year where the husband lost the love of his life, as they both became addicts and she died of an overdose. You could see him in the court room. already heartbroken and devastated from the loss of his love and now being sentenced to 15 years for manslaughter. Neither of the families wanted him to go away, as they know it was accidental and yet the judge showed no mercy. Two families lost their children that day for no justice to society at all. I'm sure that will learn him, now won't it! Now, the truth in America part of the story. The rich and powerful seldom receive the justice they deserve: The manufacturers of OxyContin started the opiate crisis in America. They made a drug that was supposed to be a long acting pain reliever, 12 hour dosing. Insurance companies pay for only what they need to these days so the physician writes a prescription to take one every 12 hours for pain and writes for the exact number of pills needed to fulfill those expectations. Unfortunately the drug only last 8 hours. Imagine only getting 8 hours of pain relief out of a 12 hour drug. Pushing a body in to withdrawals would make most people go out and look for alternatives rather than experience the hell of increased pain plus withdrawals. Strike number 1. Drug is misrepresented to the FDA as lasting for 8 hours, having low abuse potential because it lasts so long, having low addiction potential because it is time released, delivering the right amount of drug to keep a person's pain under control so actual addiction would not occur. Falsified research and data. Strike number 2. Company pharmaceutical representatives are told to market to physicians of the low abuse potential and the safety of the drug and even though it was supposed to be for end-of-life pain typically; a small market, it could be used for most pain occurring, giving incentives and compensating physicians in various ways to get it out on the market and pushing it for sales bonuses, to meet sales quotas, etc. Strike 3. The perfect storm. Addicts figured out real quickly how to crush the contents of the capsules, shoot the drug, sell it on the streets and it rapidly became what was called hillbilly heroin in Kentucky, and other places around the country, thus sparking the largest prescription drug epidemic our country has ever seen. It then takes ten years for the company to come up with a tamper resistant version of the drug but, by then, the damage was done. All this did is take innocent people who were prescribed the drug for an injury, a surgery which transpired, or use for temporary pain, who then became addicted and now found it hard to get the drug they needed so they switched to heroin, which had became amazingly cheap as an answer to displaced marijuana profits as states began to allow medicinal marijuana to outright legalization. So now we have a huge prescription drug epidemic turned in to a heroin epidemic in all parts of America, not just inner city black communities. What happened to the manufactures of OxyContin? Three executives charged, plead guilty and are fined $600 million dollars. No one went to jail in spite of thousands of deaths across the country. OxyContin is still widely prescribed. The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, manufacturers of OxyContin's net worth; $14 billion dollars. Now they have the inconvenience of several states are suing them for them for being hit hard by overdose deaths, emergency room visits and escalating medical costs associated with prescription narcotics. No matter. A minor inconvenience when the money continues to roll in. A person goes to prison for 15+ years for the death of one and a company makes a fortune, gets to keep much of it and no one goes to jail for thousands of deaths, with more occurring each day because of what they initially began. Individual responsibility? Wink, wink. Because deaths are occurring in honor students, college students, middle-class and wealthy families alike, the federal government and states are calling for a softer war on drugs. Especially since the original War of Drugs was created by the Nixon administration to quell the uprising of "uppity blacks" and hippies protesting the unpopular Vietnam War. This is why police forces were concentrated in black communities to begin with. We can't be sending honor students and tons of white kids to prison. America wouldn't allow that. So here we are in a new age. Needing to deal with a huge drug epidemic in a public health manner rather than one of criminality and over-incarceration. If you wish to learn more about criminality in corporate America and pharmaceuticals, try Johnson & Johnson; the maker of baby powder. Protecting our baby's bottoms and being seen as safe and honorable to do so.
John S.
Wed, 10/19/2016 - 10:18pm
There are plainly multiple causes to the "slow-motion" economic collapse in Detroit. It's difficult, however, to assess their relative importance. As one commentator argued, lead poisoning is a cause. Manufacturing jobs in the auto and parts industries disappeared due to more efficient manufacturing and globalization of the auto industry. The author's argument is arguably on target. The war on drugs, and the targetting of law enforcement on African American neighborhoods, mandatory sentencing, and the building of new prisons in Michigan put a lot of criminals behind bars and likely contributed to a drop in the crime rate. On the other hand, it led to the growth in welfare spending to support mostly single mothers. Young men without prospects for a good job, marriage, and family take risks and often make a nuisance of themselves. Some turn to crime.
Thu, 10/20/2016 - 6:20pm
I was working and living in Detroit starting in 1972 and witnessed the collapse of Detroit. The following are what i perceive as the causes: 1) The 1967 Riots. 2) White flight to the suburbs.(from 1.2 million to 75,000 over 50 years) 3) Decline of the Detroit School system. (some cite as the worst in the nation) 4) Decline of auto related jobs. 5) Huge increase in illegitimate black births 6) Increase in illiteracy 7) Closure of Downtown stores 8) Detroit Income taxes (was 4% in 1972 and 0% in the suburbs) 9) The Crack Cocaine and Heroin drug wars. 10) Crime (Detroit is still one of the most violent cities in the USA)
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 9:23am
I grew up in Detroit, and personally witnessed the destruction of a once-great city. There are a number of reasons for Detroit's decline that have never been explored or discussed. 1. "Blockbusting" by greedy real estate agents. Real estate agents would send out postcards with the following: "A new family is moving into your neighborhood. If you want to sell your house, please call me at xxx-xxxx". A "new family" was a euphemism for black families, and was used to "encourage" whites to sell their homes. 2. HUD (Housing and Urban Development) speculators and real estate hustlers conspired to buy up" and raze the best houses on every block, in certain sections of the city. Quite often, "shacks" were left standing while decent housing was purchased by HUD and razed. This was done purposely to depress property values, to make it easier for speculators to purchase properties at "bargain basement" prices. I realize that items 1 and 2 counteract each other and are at cross purposes, but they were a reality in 1960s Detroit. 3. The 1967 riots did much to push whites out of Detroit. A little-known aspect of the Detroit riots was the application of spray-painted words on the exteriors of black-owned businesses. The words "soul brother" was spray-painted on businesses owned by blacks so that the "angels of death" (actually rioters) would spare them from destruction. Whole business districts around the city were destroyed, never to regain their former selves. 4. The election of Coleman Alexander Young, Detroit's first black mayor, who was overtly racist to Detroit's white citizens while "getting along just fine" with the "movers and shakers" (big business people) of the day (as long as the campaign donations kept coming in).... 5. The abolition of the STRESS (Stop The Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets). This anti-criminal program was put in by mayor Young's predecessor and was quite successful in "cleaning up the streets" of criminals. In this program, police officers would disguise themselves as vulnerable old people and walk through neighborhoods as "decoys". Predatory criminals would attempt to rob these elderly citizens and quite often, were dispatched to "the great hereafter". One of Young's campaign promises was the abolition of the STRESS program as too many of "his people" were being eliminated. Upon the election of Young, the program was disbanded. These are 5 reasons for this once-great city's demise.
Sat, 07/08/2017 - 2:01pm

I would submit one thing I believe that is in error. As I understood it, she mentions the help for kids who were on drugs went away, only leaving the police to call. If I remember correctly, there was little to no social service help for drug addiction prior to 1978 or so. So saying they took away the assistance for kids on drugs is misleading since it wasn't there to begin with. Please correct me if I'm wrong.