Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Washington diary: Prohibition lite

Leave it to the BBC to point out the stupidity and injustice of America's prohibitionist liquor laws.




[W]hat Elisa Kelly does know is that she will be [in Albemarle County jail, Virginia] for two-and-a-quarter years.



It is a relatively short sentence compared to the murderers and rapists with whom she paces around the narrow, pit-like courtyard once a day for 10 minutes.



You might argue that Elisa Kelly, who shares her cell with nine other inmates, is lucky, because her original sentence of eight years was slashed to 27 months after a lengthy and costly appeals process which finally hit a dead end when the US Supreme Court refused to hear her case.



"It's absurd. It's an injustice," she told me with red eyes that matched her uniform.



"My boys don't just think I'm a good mother. They think I'm the best mother!"



Elisa's crime was to hold a birthday party for her 16-year-old son Ryan and serve his friends beer.



As a precaution, she and her ex-husband, who is serving 30 days for bringing the alcohol onto the property, made sure that none of the kids would be able to drive home.



As they arrived at their 6000ft suburban mansion on the outskirts of Earlysville, she confiscated their car keys, put them in a bucket, barricaded the drive with her Hummer and told them to have a good time.



They were all expecting to have a sleep over and, since Elisa knew most of the kids because she had taught them at school, she did not think it was necessary to warn their parents that beer would be consumed.



At about 10pm the din of music and boys' voices was drowned out by police sirens.


Read the entire excellent article at BBC News.



You can get married at 16 - or even younger in some states. You can drive a car - an incredibly dangerous task - at 16. You can vote for government officials at age 18, and at that same age you can kill and be killed in the name of that government. By age 18 you're mature enough in the eyes of the law to do all those things, which involve significant risk and significant responsibility.



But beer? Apparently it's so dangerous that you have to attain the age of 21 before you're considered by the government to be responsible enough to dare to give it a try. I say "considered by the government" because we all know a few people who aren't responsible enough to handle alcohol even after they turn 21. I submit that it's this prohibitionist policy that made some of them that way.



Some people even have such a fear of beer that if you happen to enjoy of in the presence of your kids, you might be accused of child endangerment.



What the hell happened to personal responsibility? What grants the government the right to tell you how to teach your kids to act responsibly? EIGHT YEARS - or even 27 months - in jail for throwing a party for 16-year-olds in a safe, supervised environment? (Although I grant that she should have told the parents in advance what she had in mind.)



"Land of the free", indeed.

1 comment:

C. Overgaard said...

I can not understand such laws.

In Denmark we have no lower limit for alcohol consumption and a 16 year limit for alcohol purchase. Our youth has to go to the city hall once they turn 16 in order to obtain an ID-card, which confirms the age in shops. We are talking of access to al kind of alcohol, not only beer and wine.

Why do we have such laws? Because we wanted to lower the number of DUI conviction and not least the number of people killed on our roads. Our strategy is an success if you count 73 people killed due to alcohol related accidents during the entire year of 2006 an success and we are talking of a population of 5,000,000 people.

When does the Danish teens start to drink? According to a study about 20 percent of teens under 15 have been drunk several times before sobering up when they find out what good things in life they miss because they are unable to attend the activities because they are too drunk. In the summer groups of teens aged down to 12 are seen drinking in groups at parks and beaches always with a concerned parent in somewhat distance. Please notice. They are drinking with parental approval because if the parents buy, they can adjust the amount and they can address problems more freely because the teenagers does not have to hide their intake.

That is properly why we also avoid problems like teenage pregnancies and some of the violence. Violence does exist, but the majority of the convicted are people who can not drink due to religious reasons and therefore enjoy social interaction. They become marginalized and angry. Teenage pregnancies are so rare (The average age of a mother, who is giving birth is now late in the 20's, which cause other problems.) that we even have TV-series about the few.

Our only problem is that we are aware of is the pub-crawling journeys, who are sold all over Europe to Bulgaria. In the future we will inform our youth better, so they know that it is safer to avoid drinking and social interaction, while being on Holiday in another country. Just the last 14 days one Dane aged 17 have been killed because the drug the ice-cubes in the drinks so people are fooled to drink more than there health can take and 4 Danish women had been raped.

I think that your country should see to Europe for strategies and especially give the youth access to alcohol, which is a dangerous product. So dangerous in fact that adjusting to it is something that teenagers should use years to learn about before they can buy it on their own. We have saved 200 lives per year by learning our teenagers of the dangers. Just try to calculate how many lives you could save.