What was it like to be reunited with your son?
“I looked up to him.” When Tray Johns was kidnapped, her son was 6 years old and he could only hug her waist. When she was freed, he was 15 years old, towering over his mother. For nine years, he sat in silent tears as his mother endured the trauma of being caged like an animal for drug charges. Who would hear his cry? Who would rescue his mother from a man-made cave filled with poor health, strange noises in the night and cold, steel bars wrapped in thorns?
Tray told me she welded and installed those bars on the window of her own cage. For authorities that demand sacrifice, one must carry the instrument of affliction on their back to fulfill its designs.
Tray joined me on my radio program (watch the interview) to advocate for clemency on behalf of her friend Tynice Hall. Tynice is a young mother separated from her boy just like Tray was. Tynice’s son Jonathan deserves his mother. Yet a society lost in its own noisy self-indulgence cannot stop hiring politicians who maintain the vicious cruelty of victimless crime laws.
For dating a man who was selling drugs no worse than the opium our soldiers are forced to protect in Afghanistan, Tynice has spent 12 years of her life in a sickening cell. She has 16 years more to go. Her dad is sick. Her mother is raising her son alone.
Tynice called into my radio show from federal prison. She was eloquent in the midst of bondage. She told me she was thankful for being able to breathe.
We get on average 80 trips around the sun on this planet. Our home is filled with incredible wonder from rain-soaked ice cream family outings to salt-dried sunsets. From the light of child birth, our freedom brings curiosity, mistakes, struggle, and triumph. Who among us has a right to rob Tynice and her family of 28 years of this human experience?
How could a civilization in 2018 devise such an archaic torture as a cage for substances of desire?
We say we want criminal justice reform, but we must realize that it is not a sentimental sideshow. Victimless crime laws are a blight on our humanity. People that persist in maintaining them only deform their own souls more than the prisoners they victimize.
We have a jury obligation to judge the moral character of the law and render “not guilty” verdicts for people like Tynice Hall and Tray Johns. We have a responsibility to rethink voting for people that do not pledge to abolish victimless crime laws. And we have a duty to only employ the force of law against actions we ourselves would find worthy of physical restraint if we encountered them individually: acts of violence, child abuse, fraud, or theft.
The core substances and services being sold in prohibited markets can be dangerous and wrapped in violence precisely because of prohibition. Fentanyl would not be a major accidental overdose threat if heroin was legal. If physician-monitored adults could get opium safely from market-regulated clinics with liability for safety, fentanyl deaths would plummet for those struggling with this pharmaceutical industry-created opioid crisis.
What creates gang violence is the act of state prohibition itself. Imagine that recent energy drink-linked fatalities led to the government banning caffeine like any other drug. Immediately, profit margins for black market “Red Bulls” would explode. Whereas two rival energy drink distributors currently settle territory or customer disputes through contract settlement, black market caffeine suppliers would only have violence as a means of dispute resolution.
Rehab centers and social pressure against drugs can beat addiction more than any act of state coercion could ever pretend to do. In fact, the best gift to violent gangs is to keep prohibition in place for any nonviolent service or substance.
Stories of state persecution for nonviolent behavior are all around you. I met a person recently whose car troubles highlight the daily banality of state coercion for nonviolent acts. Desperate for transportation, he bought a car from a friend. He was low on money after a work-ending injury and forgot to get the tag replaced and was pulled over. A man with a badge and a gun was sent by our society to steal the man’s car for this silly mistake. He now must pay a thousand dollars to retrieve the car: the same price he paid for it. He is cheated by this useless bureaucratic game after watching his family torn apart from an unrelated tragedy. Our society did that. You own that if you knowingly hire politicians to keep victimless crime laws on the books.
Another friend was recently arrested for a victimless crime. He spoke in wide-eyed terror of how ugly just a short stint in jail is. Poor nutrition, disturbed minds, lack of sunlight, loud sounds from guards in the middle of the night to keep people sleep deprived and depressed: a rancid recipe for chronic diseases like cancer.
He told me about a teen he saw who was very small and thin, thrown away by our society for a drug. He witnessed a group of much-larger men take the teen into a cell for what appeared to be a several days-long assault.
Who put this young man in this situation? Who looked the other way, too busy to care for the atrocities executed by the “consent of the governed?”
I know this is hard to read. We are not supposed to talk about this in “polite society.” But I do not know how else to describe how unnecessarily vulgar our society actually is other than to tell the truth about those crushed by our public machine.
Our country is tearing itself apart. We know deep down that a nation that sends officers with guns to punish neighbors for anything from broken tail lights to home schooling to raw milk is lost in darkness. The left and right tell us to blame certain people for this deep-seated guilt we feel, this sense of injustice that we seek to suppress in our hearts. Even the libertarians tell us it is just the state, some alien entity, that is at fault. But if we tear open the temple veil of the Man, the State, the Elites, the Privileged, the Swamp, we will find only an empty room. No one is home but us. We are the ones who give consent to others to do things on our behalf and call it “society.”
We have skin in the game. In our skin, we must show mercy, not sacrifice, to our neighbors. We must self-sacrifice our fear of our neighbors’ freedom rather than sacrifice their bodies. Look how the bipartisan FIRST Step Act hushed the hateful partisan babbling for just a moment. Look how Alice Marie Johnson, the grandmother recently pardoned by President Trump, brings a Christmas-like pause of transcendent joy to warring political tribes. This is just a taste of what we can bring to our nation if we take the next step and abolish all victimless crime laws.
President Trump will likely pardon more people than any other president in history. With this momentum, we can end state violence against the nonviolent to protect our families. From this day forward: no victim, no crime.