Twelve hundred dollars! That's sixty grand a year! The report mentions one bloke who claimed to spend $12,500 per week, but those collecting the statistics did not find that junkie to be credible. Funny that.
85% of junkies in the sample were unemployed. Even so, their mean income was $1,600 per week, which is well above the average weekly income in Australia. Junkies are not necessarily poor. In fact, that puts them in the top tax bracket. Their problem is not income; it's how they spend their income. When you consider that none of that income would be declared to the Tax Office, you can see that junkies have tremendous spending power - more than most of the people reading this blog. Just imagine having $80,000 a year tax free!
As for how they get their money, half had committed a crime in the last 30 days. By crime, I mean assault, robbery, theft and fraud.
The mean age of starting on heroin was 19.
96% of junkies smoke.
A junkie will spend between $350 and $700 on a transaction, meaning junkies are flush with cash.
About 30% had contact with the police between once a day and once a week. Think about that - how often do you, as a law abiding citizen, have contact with the police? I was breathalysed a few months ago. Apart from that, I have had no contact with the police for about a decade. Some crooks are definitely frequent fliers when it comes to using police time.
About half were in some form of drug treatment program. Half had also been to a doctor in the last 30 days. According to this report from Victoria, junkies are also big consumers of ambulance visits, thanks to overdoses. The graph on the last page appears to show a peak of 450 ambulance visits per month at the peak of an overdose epidemic back in 2000. And that's just Victoria.
How does a junkie get his hands (and 66% of the sample were male) on $80,000 per year, especially when 85% admit to having no paid employment? Welfare will only get you so far, as will prostitution (which accounts for 30% of junkie income). It's estimated 35% of their income comes from property crime.
Given that stolen goods sell at a significant discount, how much does a junkie have to steal to earn $80,000 a year? Apparently the discount rate is 50%, and 35% of that comes to $28,000. Double that, to remove the 50% discount, and we find that your average junkie needs to steal $56,000 from us per year, or over a grand a week.
How much does it cost to lock someone up? According to an AGSM report, it's $33,000 per year (although these numbers are old, and need to be increased to account for inflation):
The average annual cost per prisoner for 1986–87 ranged from $43,970 in South Australia, to $24,568 in Tasmania. In NSW the figure was $40,880, and the weighted average for Australia $34,570 (Walker 1988, Table 8).
Wardlaw’s (1981, p.45) study of the criminal records of 1,314 randomly chosen Australian drug offenders led him to conclude that the tendency for the drug habit to cause the user to embark on a criminal career had been exaggerated. Dobinson and Ward (1985, p.48), in their study of 225 property offenders in NSW gaols, found that, although 72% reported a first instance of property crime before the first use of heroin, only 42.6% reported that they had progressed to “regular” crime before they became regular heroin users.
Now for some thoughts........
If junkies are stealing $56,000 per year from the general public, and more on top of that in welfare benefits, but it only costs $33,000 to lock them up, then why do people complain about the cost of locking up junkies? From what I can see, locking them up has a cost:benefit ratio of 2:1 (if you include welfare payments). The ratio goes up even further if you can find a way to incarcerate them cheaply, such as sending them to Tasmania. The ratio goes up to 2.75:1 at Tasmanian prison costs.
I am not arguing that we should lock them all up. As someone with a libertarian bent, I believe that if you want to stick shit into your arm, go right ahead. However, I also believe in property rights, so that if someone with an arm full of shit breaks into my house, I am perfectly entitled to blow their head off.
I'd prefer to see junkies given a prescription and allowed to buy cheap heroin from chemists. Hell, I'd even give it to them, if it will stop them smashing car windows and stealing GPS units and so forth. However, given that most started on a life of crime before they started on drugs, we have to remember that these are not mainly junkies with a criminal problem; most are criminals with a drug problem. I am not sure that free heroin will stop their thieving ways.
I've been to Holland, and sampled the hash, and I can tell you that hard drugs are just everywhere, and property crime is out of control. Junkies appear to be addicted to thieving more than they are addicted to heroin.
I surmise that if they gave up injecting heroin, they'd continue stealing; they'd just find other ways to spend their loot, such as a nice car, flash clothes, or spending lots of time at the pub or casino. These are not people who are particularly interested in holding down a "boring" job, working for the man - assuming that they are still functioning sufficiently to ever tempt someone to employ them.
Given that most junkies are going to be a drain for the rest of their lives, I'd do the following:
- Get used to the idea that most will be a dead loss. Few will reform. Most will die much younger than the rest of us. Let's just minimise their impact whilst we are stuck with them.
- Move them to a location where their wastoid lifestyle will have the least impact on the rest of us. Somewhere up the north coast perhaps, where the living is easy and housing is cheap. Supply them with all the free heroin they want. If they want rehabilitation etc, make it available. But let's not get all wowserish and nanny-ish about it. Just leave them to their injecting and early deaths and leave them alone.
- Take their kids away for good, and cut their balls off if they breed another.
- Build a tent city prison. If they are caught stealing, or selling their heroin, they can spend the next 5 years or so in the cheapest prison accommodation that we can provide. Vegemite sandwiches three times a day. Make it somewhere remote, so you don't even have to bother with fences. If they escape, who cares? They'll be back sooner or later.
- Dye them green. If they are found outside their prison, or away from their idyl on the north coast, they can be shot on sight. Pay a bounty of $50 for every dead "greenie".
- If they can show that they can support themselves by not resorting to theft or relying on the public tit (eg, Brett Whitely), they can live wherever they like and carry on in whatever fashion, so long as they don't break the law. I have no problems with people with an occasional drug habit, or the means to support a nasty drug habit.
That should fix things.