Reviving ADAM

Can the most cost-effective drug data collection program be saved? Does anyone care?

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!”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

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