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Policing Methamphetamine

Policing Methamphetamine: Narcopolitics in Rural America

William Garriott
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 201
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  • Book Info
    Policing Methamphetamine
    Book Description:

    In its steady march across the United States, methamphetamine has become, to quote former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the most dangerous drug in America. As a result, there has been a concerted effort at the local level to root out the methamphetamine problem by identifying the people at its source - those known or suspected to be involved with methamphetamine. Government-sponsored anti-methamphetamine legislation has enhanced these local efforts, formally and informally encouraging rural residents to identify meth offenders in their communities. Policing Methamphetamine shows what happens in everyday life - and to everyday life - when methamphetamine becomes an object of collective concern. Drawing on interviews with users, police officers, judges, and parents and friends of addicts in one West Virginia town, William Garriott finds that this overriding effort to confront the problem changed the character of the community as well as the role of law in creating and maintaining social order. Ultimately, this work addresses the impact of methamphetamine and, more generally, the war on drugs, on everyday life in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3300-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    On March 9, 2006, George W. Bush signed into law the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act. True to its name, the 2006 version of the PATRIOT Act was largely a reauthorization of the initial legislation, with the same general emphasis on combating “terror” in the name of homeland security. There was, however, one major exception. The new act included legislation focused onmethamphetamine, the synthetic substanceNewsweekhad recently dubbed “America’s most dangerous drug” (Jefferson 2005).

    In his comments during the signing, President Bush spoke directly about the “growing threat” of methamphetamine and the measures taken by the legislation...

  5. 1 “The Most Dangerous Drug in America”
    (pp. 19-36)

    I did not initially focus on the policing of methamphetamine in Baker County. As originally conceived, my project was going to be an examination of the treatment experiences of addicts working to overcome their addiction to meth—what I thought of as the “therapeutic trajectory” of their recovery process. I was interested in this question because of my reading in the scientific literature on methamphetamine addiction. Clinical reports have emphasized the neurological impact of methamphetamine, noting that in addition to being highly addictive, methamphetamine results in acute and/or chronic psychosis.¹ This complicates the already dim prospects for successful treatment. I...

  6. 2 “It Could Be Here … It Could Be My Neighbor”
    (pp. 37-58)

    At one of the final meetings of the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, a regional coordinator presented the findings from a “Community Readiness Assessment” she had conducted for Baker County the previous month.¹ Jennifer Gaines was in her mid-twenties and worked for the West Virginia Prevention Resource Center (WVPRC) as a “community development specialist.” The primary task of the WVPRC was to assist community groups in developing programs to promote health and well-being in the state, particularly those emphasizing prevention.

    Jennifer explained that “readiness” was, like “social capital,” one of those buzz words common in community development. It referred to a...

  7. 3 “You Can Always Tell Who’s Using Meth”
    (pp. 59-82)

    Late one evening in the spring of 2006, police officers set out to arrest Burt Culler and Mandy Swift at their home on the outskirts of Meadville. Over the past year numerous homes, businesses, and construction sites had been burglarized throughout Baker County, including the local mental health clinic, from which someone had stolen a computer. From other sites cash was stolen, as well as thousands of dollars worth of tools and building supplies. Police came to believe that the burglaries were linked, and Burt and Mandy, two known meth users in the community, were the primary suspects.

    The stolen...

  8. 4 “The People You’d Never Suspect”
    (pp. 83-102)

    Emily Stevens was in chemistry class the day police came to search the high school for drugs. Word spread quickly among students when the officer arrived with the drug dog to do the search. In a panic, Emily tried to wash the marijuana she had with her down one of the sinks in the lab. Unfortunately, the sink did not actually work, so all she could do was stuff it down the drain and hope the police would not find it.

    The police came through the classroom and left without incident, so she thought she was safe. But the next...

  9. 5 “Against the Peace and Dignity of the State”
    (pp. 103-128)

    There was a sense of excitement in Baker County the day David Johnson was arrested. David was one of those people that “everybody knew” was selling drugs. In 2003 he was a recent high school graduate, a part-time gas station attendant, and a meth user. David began by buying small amounts of meth from local dealers but was soon driving to Virginia to purchase larger amounts. It was not long before David decided to go into business for himself, using part of the meth he purchased and selling the rest.

    David’s business grew quickly. After he made two high-priced (and...

  10. 6 “What Do You Do with Them?”
    (pp. 129-162)

    A striking feature of my research was the pessimistic light in which those given the task of dealing directly with the methamphetamine problem (police, probation officers, public health workers, judges, etc.) viewed their efforts. I asked Frank Fields, a state trooper who spent two years working exclusively on drug-related cases, if he thought what he and his fellow officers were doing was having any effect. He smiled slightly and shook his head no. “All we can do is try and contain it,” he said. “But we’ll never get rid of it.”

    Daryl Montgomery, a sheriff’s deputy who had carried out...

  11. Epilogue: “A Lot Happens in a Little Town”
    (pp. 163-166)

    This book has examined the response to methamphetamine in one rural American community in order to shed light on broader aspects of American political culture as it has taken shape around the issue of illicit drugs (i.e., “narcotics”). In Baker County, the response to methamphetamine involved the repetition of many practices developed to address previous drug threats, but it also enabled the introduction of new practices into the field of drug enforcement. Each chapter focused on a different context in which the response to methamphetamine was taking place. These included several sites within the criminal justice system, but also sites...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 167-172)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-180)
  14. Index
    (pp. 181-190)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 191-191)