Should the U.S. Prosecute El Chapo?

The United States wants Mexico to extradite Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the notorious head of the Sinoloa drug cartel who was recently re-captured after his second escape from a Mexican prison.  Federal prosecutors want to try El Chapo in Brooklyn or in another city with outstanding indictments.

Does this prosecution make sense? Let’s take as given that El Chapo has broken U.S. drug laws and commissioned acts of violence on U.S. soil.  And let’s set aside whether governments should prosecute bad laws, like drug prohibition, so long as those laws remain on the books.

Even given those assumptions, U.S. prosecution of El Chapo makes little sense.  

For starters, such a prosecution would be unusually expensive because of the heightened security measures needed.

More importantly, taking drug kingpins out of circulation seems to increase rather than decrease violence, with no detectable impact on drug production or consumption.  

Thus prosecuting El Chapo accomplishes no meaningful goal, even for those who endorse prohibition; it is criminal justice theater, designed to convince the public that the authorities are “doing something.”

Topics: Tags: