Today was the first day of a two-day meeting organized jointly by the National Institute of Justice and the drug czar’s office on how to revive, in some form, the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program, killed at the beginning of this year.
It’s a discouraging process. Everyone agrees that collecting drug data from arrestees was a great idea, but no one is sure where the money is going to come from to do it. Eight million dollars a year is peanuts in a $40 billion federal drug budget, but the National Institute of Justice is a tiny agency, and last year its budget got butchered on the Hill, leaving it with only $6 million for its entire social science research program.
No one quite knows why the two Justice Appropriations subcommittees are so hostile to NIJ in general and ADAM in particular; the idea that the anti-science bias of the Administration has rubbed off on its co-partisans on the Hill — “A crusade doesn’t need a roadmap” — is of course merely speculative.
My belief, not universally shared at the meeting, is that collecting information about arrestees is a great idea, but shouldn’t be restricted to their drug-related behavior. Whatever sort of social dislocation or personal dysfunction you want to study, it comes through the nation’s lockups. If ADAM started collecting data on homelessness, infectious disease (and in particular sexually transmitted disease), informal labor markets, etc., it could not only do more good in the world but also have a chance of tapping into larger budgets than the pittance NIJ gets: those of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example. It’s even possible some foundation money might be found. But from a bureaucratic perspective, sharing cost always means sharing control, and sharing control is scary.
So the whole thing is pretty discouraging. But as today’s meeting dragged drearily on, I kept hearing a voice whispering, “Help is on the way!”