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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

How can we battle the impact of health?

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

On Saturday afternoon, 20 federal agents stormed a rural home in central Missouri and arrested James Schwartz, a 43-year-old Missouri resident. Agents had been trying to negotiate with Schwartz for two days following suspicions of drug activities at the home. A dozen negotiators had used bullhorns, robots equipped with high tech equipment and a variety of other means. At one point, 100 officers surrounded the home.

Clearly Schwartz was a bad guy with a checkered past. It's that checkered past that has me curious. By any measure, Schwartz should have been behind bars and not involved in the drug trade once again. But Schwartz and thousands of others slip through the system because prisons are overcrowded and, for the most part, their crimes did not involve violence. These two factors combined to keep Schwartz on the streets. For Schwartz at least, that is soon to change.

Schwartz has now been charged with possessing methamphetamine for distribution, being a felon with a firearm and having a firearm for drug-related purposes. But here's where it becomes curious. Schwartz has a past federal conviction in Texas for drug trafficking and drug possession. He was already on probation for an earlier meth conviction in Missouri. At the time of his arrest on Saturday, Schwartz was running a full-blown meth lab in yet another rural Missouri home.

If he had a past federal conviction for drugs, why was he on probation in Missouri and not behind bars? Granted, the system has flaws but here is a drug dealer with no visible means of support and yet he remained free despite his drug-heavy past. I'd just be curious as to the cost of the two-day standoff with 100 federal agents in rural Missouri. And I'd be curious how Schwartz was able to gain probation despite a federal drug conviction.

Our prisons are far too overcrowded. Drugs are singularly to blame. And maybe our current system uniformly grants probation unless there is a violent crime involved. But somewhere, somehow and sometime we must seek other solutions to diminish the tragic impact of methamphetamines.

Controlling the chemicals used in meth manufacture is a good starting point. And putting drug dealers like James Schwartz behind bars is another good step.

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