Stopping meth in our time
The revolving door of Oregon prison may come to a halt for one Baker City drug dealer picked up for selling meth mere months after he was released from prison for more of the same.
Instead of state charges, Ervin Golden Jr. faces federal prison time on charges he sold methamphetamine in Baker City. If the current charges are proven true, it will mean a year in state prison didn't deter Golden from going back to a life of crime.
But instead of 10 months to three years in state prison, Golden could face up to 10 years in federal prison on the new charges.
Good. Because if the charges are true, the man's been an unrepentant merchant of misery for too long. Taking him away for a year protects the community only for that long. A decade is a more appropriate punishment for someone proven to be a habitual criminal.
But the paradigm of harsher sentences alone won't solve the meth problem. Too many users land in prison for other crimes, only to serve out their terms "stark raving sober" ready to use again as soon as they leave prison.
That's why Baker City residents and Oregon officials should give a fair hearing to a proposal to expand the Powder River Correctional Facility. Powder River's partnership with the drug-rehab non-profit New Directions Northwest means inmates serving time for their crimes have the opportunity to come away with the tools to fight their addictions to meth, alcohol or other drugs.
If the criminal behavior was sparked by addiction, then fighting the addiction should help prevent the ex-con from reoffending.
Ultimately, cutting off the drug's supply may prove easier than quelling demand. As The Oregonian's Steve Suo has documented in great detail, the global market for pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in meth, includes both legitimate pharmaceutical companies and criminal corporations bent on producing and distributing meth.
In other words, you could lock up all the cold medicine in America and still have a sizeable meth problem.
That international solution can only come from a federal government willing to engage in diplomacy to block illegal traffic in pseudoephedrine.
We aren't there yet. But an equation that includes political will on the world stage, stiff sentences for repeat offenders and practical corrections policies aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders could add up to the end of meth in our lifetime.