legal 5.10

There is a first rule of holes: when you find yourself in one, stop digging.

For example: When the City of Portland sets up "exclusion zones" to drive working girls off the streets, the working girls and the johns (surprise!) move down the road. So now the citizens of Clackamas County are outraged; their daughters are subjected to rudeness on the streets-- blah blah blah. Do they blame Portland? Well, no, this is Clackamas County we're talking about. They just wish they'd thought of it first, so that the working girls from the south end of 82nd would have been pushed north, instead of, ahem, "vice" versa.

If you've ever been a tourist in a foreign country, you have seen this guy: when he can't get his ideas across he raises his voice and starts to speak slowly, as if he was addressing a deaf idiot. In his heart he doesn't believe that these people don't speak English; he just thinks they're stupid. And God forbid he should have to admit that he's ignorant about something important, like communicating with people. So he bellows and snorts.

Our Ugly American tourist would benefit from studying Asian self defense techniques, like judo. All the chop socky stuff actually has one thing in common. When you get attacked, you don't resist force with force. Instead, you relax and get out of the way. Your attacker's weight and momentum carry him forward, he becomes vulnerable, and then you strike. If our tourist-o pal would relax and try to learn from his mistakes, he might pick up a few words, like "please" or "thank you," and then he just might have an easier time of it.

Likewise, Our Friends in lo-cal government could do something smart, by putting muscle and money into supporting efforts to get women off the street. It's not as if city government doesn't know what they ought to be doing. Years ago, after serious study and thought, the City Club did a report which laid out a perfectly coherent prostitution policy: decriminalizing it.

Which brings me to the tragedy of drug treatment programs. Every dollar invested in them "saves seven dollars in societal and medical costs," says a former Assistant Secretary of Health. Programs cut crime by up to eighty percent, according to Brown University. And jailing a drug addict costs, on average, $26,000 a year, while long-term residential treatment costs about $6,800 (other forms of treatment are cheaper). But only about fifteen percent of the people who need treatment can get it, because we spend all that money locking people up and there isn't any left over.

When we see people trying to manage their sexual urges we make them criminals and push the problem off on our neighbors. When people become addicts we blame them and lock them up, even though addiction is a medical problem which responds to treatment. In both cases we make our own lives and the lives of others insanely difficult, as we pursue failed and unworkable policies. We shout louder, just like the idiot tourist, but no one can make sense out of what we are saying, because the messages we are sending are gibberish. So we dig ourselves deeper and deeper, and become more and more frustrated, because we can't master lesson one: when you are in the hole, stop digging.

Brad Woodworth is a partner in Cobb and Woodworth, LLP, a law firm representing adult businesses in Oregon.

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