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Is narcotics a police problem or a medical problem? Why is drug addiction so heavily concentrated in New York? Do you think anything constructive came out of the narcotics hearings last week? For the answers to these and other questions, listen now to your City Station's campus press conference. In this transcribed discussion, the editors of college newspapers question a prominent personality in the news. Marvin Sleeper, award-winning reporter and columnist for the New York Journal American, is the moderator of this series. Now to introduce the panel and tonight's guest, here it is, Mr. Sleeper. Good evening and welcome to another edition of Campus Press Conference. Our guest tonight is Mr. Bernard Katzen. Mr. Katzen is counsel to the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Narcotic Study. This week, the committee finished a series of hearings on the problems of drug addiction. And Mr. Katzen is here to answer a question on what came out of those hearings that might be helpful to solve this serious problem. Here to question Mr. Katzen, our campus press conference report is Ruth Korsnick of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Jim Fowell of the Fordham-Lexagram and Bert Kibbrick of the NYU Square Journal.
And what about the first question from you, Jim Fowell? Well, Mr. Katzen, is narcotics a police problem or a medical problem? Well, before I answer the question, Mr. Sleeper, I think I want to clarify the status of my appearance here at this conference. As you know that I am counsel for a Joint Legislative Committee, which has recently concluded public hearings. Now, this committee will consider the testimony that was presented to it and they are the ones that must make the final determinations and recommendations. Now, what I can contribute to this conference is to give you the benefit of the observations that I made personally at these hearings. And to that extent, I think I can advance some interesting... Fine, we understand that. Mr. Katzen, we understand that it will be up to the committee to make any final recommendations. But of course, you've been sitting with them and you can certainly give us some observations that are going to be helpful in making those recommendations.
Within that framework, I'd be delighted to do so. Okay, Jim, repeat that question now. Well, is narcotics a medical problem or a police problem? Well, that's a double-barreled question that's not susceptible of a yes or no answer. And I'd like to explain that very briefly. It perhaps can be best answered this wise. It is both a medical and a police problem. And to just bring it to a point, it is certainly a police problem when you talk about a certain type of violator of the narcotic laws. If you're talking about the non-addict peddler and the conspirator at the top and the enforcement of certain penal provisions and connection with that type of individual is definitely a police problem. If you're talking about the user who is the victim of this addiction, the testimony is disclosed that these hearings, and I think it is a consensus of opinion, that it is definitely a medical problem. Well, and let's take these questions up separately. Let's talk about the police problem.
From what came out at your hearings, do you think that the police are adequately handling the problem of dope pushes and dope sellers? My impression is that the police of the City of New York have done a fairly effective job. I think the officers that assigned under the narcotic section of the police department headed by Chief Deputy Inspector Coil have done a fairly good job of enforcing the laws. Question from Bert Kiberg. Mr. Katson, briefly, what are the laws on narcotics at this moment? Well, if you're referring to the state laws, there are too many to mention at this conference because they relate to all sorts of penalties and statutes, penalties for statutes,
which cover the entire gamut of the distribution of the drugs. It has to do with possible violations by pharmacists and wholesalers and distributors. It covers prescriptions and the physicians. And of course, it covers many other ramifications of the entire aspect of the handling and the distribution and sale and possession of laws. But I think what you would be primarily interested in, in which I think would answer your question best, is that the laws which we commonly think about in connection with the penal provisions are the sale, the prohibitions against selling drugs, that is, the illegal selling of drugs and illegal possession of drugs. Well, what provisions does the state now have? How does the state handle the average drug addict who is picked up by the police? What becomes of him?
Well, the average drug addict who was picked up on the street for the violation of the drug laws is handled in the mean as a common criminal and is sentenced to jail or he may receive a suspended sentence depending upon the nature of his violation and the history and the entire record of the case that he was involved. But if you're referring to, and I grab a gather that you are, if you're referring to any special way of handling the addict from a medical standpoint, I regret to say that the state does very little about it. Well, as far back, I believe it was 1951 that were hearings held here in New York on drug addicts and what should be done about it. The hearings are similar to the ones that you held and they've made reports. Did you find in your researching this before you wrote before the legislative committee
that anything was done about it then or on the basis of the 1951 hearings? Well, you are referring to the hearings that were conducted by the then attorney general of the state of New York, Nathaniel Goldstein, who was appointed by the legislature of the state to conduct an investigation into the question of narcotic addiction. And out of his work, out of the results of that investigation, were, in the first instance, a report which contained recommendations for action. There were many. I could mention some of the recommendations that he made. For instance, there was a recommendation that a pilot project for handling narcotic addiction among the women inmates at the reformatory of Bedford called the Westfield Farms Reformatory, that a pilot project in connection with these women was sponsored and promoted and recommended.
And there was an attempt made to do something about it in this area. There was an attempt made to segregate these women prisoner addicts. There was an attempt made to apply psychiatric therapy, which many people believe can be helpful. There was discussion about an aftercare program after their incarceration and release. But I can tell you that when all was said and done, the attempt was the best of feeble one and the project never really materialized. And in a nutshell, it was really abandoned without ever having gotten a fair trial. Ruth Korsnick. Conflicting testimony seems to have been presented at your hearings as to whether drug addiction is actually on the increase or decrease in New York. But all these estimates seem to indicate that it's quite high.
So I'd like to ask you, if there's any reason why it should be so highly concentrated in New York and also why there is this uncertainty as to whether it's increasing or decreasing? Well, you're asking a question about an area of the in the area of statistics. And I can tell you right now that this is one of the trouble spots in the work of our committee because obviously when you're dealing in a field which has illegal aspects in it because the sale and possession of drugs are illegal. Obviously you can't expect a person to step up and say I'm guilty of a crime. There are other reasons why statistics are uncertain. But I can say to you that on the basis of the testimony that the committee heard at its past sessions that all indications are that the problem and the incidence of narcotic addiction in the city of New York is on the increase. I must say at the same time that the testimony indicates that the problem of addiction among minors may well be on the decrease.
Now some of the reasons as to why indications are that there's an increase in the New York City area and the problem is a serious one in New York because the testimony has indicated that New York City has almost 40% of the total number of addicts in the entire country concentrated right here in the city. Well various explanations have been given some say that because we are a large urban center with low level that is economic low level areas that this is conducive toward the furtherance that is for the extension of this addiction. We heard one very interesting reason for why the incidence has increased in the city of New York and that was that in states which have increased their penalties the result has been to drive them out of those states and they gravitate toward New York City
and that many of these addicts have come to our city and there are other reasons that have been advanced. How much basis for that particular approach in statistics? I don't think that we can demonstrate it specifically. I am inclined to believe that there is something to it. Perhaps not to the extent that has been suggested by the proponents of this argument, this theory rather, but I am inclined to believe that there is something to it. Question from Bert Kibbering. Would you say that the large influx of these narcotics addicts that are being driven out of other cities to New York points to a laxity in the New York City laws and programs for narcotics addicts? Of course this has been one of the areas of the major concern to our committee specifically. We had six areas and the one that you are referring to is the adequacy and the stringency of the present penal provisions.
Now the testimony on that area of interest has been conflicting, I must say. If you take the view of the Commissioner of Narcotic Bureau, the Federal Commissioner, Harry Anslinger, he and U.S. Attorney Paul Williams have been urging that we strengthen. We make our laws, our penal laws more stringent. We bring it up to the federal, the level of the federal laws which require a five-year mandatory minimum. The mandatory minimum for possession of sale of drugs. So from their standpoint, they feel that our laws are not stringent enough. On the other hand, we have had witnesses appear, jurists another, who say that they feel that the present laws are perfectly adequate for dealing with the problem. From your personal observation and being at these five days of the hearings, what do you tend to believe that we should have more stringent laws?
I'm not prepared to make a final, to render a final opinion on this because I think a great deal of further study is involvedness. Considerable material was submitted to our committee, statistics and evaluations and they piled up at an enormous rate and we do have to evaluate all this. My own personal, present inclination is this, that the present penal laws would seem to be adequate enough. I think that we may have some additional laws which might strengthen them, but not necessarily from the punishment standpoint. And I rather believe that the accent should be on the medical aspects, the mental health aspects, the rehabilitation of the users. Well, let's get into that then because there are several witnesses who appear before your committee who believe the same thing. Could you tell us a little about what medical therapy should be as to what it is now for an narcotic user?
I think that the most vivid and dramatic way of answering your question is take it in relation to any one defendant who is convicted. Say a user of a drug and he stands before the judge, not convicted for mere use. As you know in the state of New York, there is no violation of law for using the drug, narcotic. But there is, the violation isn't a possession or the sale. Now the possessor undoubtedly, it follows logically that the possessor is a user in most cases. Now here is a defendant who stands before the bar of justice and the judge is to sentence him. Now what does he do with this defendant? Would sending him to jail be the answer? When he gets out of jail, will that have rehabilitated him? The purpose of sentence, as we all know, is that the sentence should act both as a deterrent and yet enabled a defendant to rehabilitate himself.
Now I'd like to take, just elaborate a little on this point because I think it is one of the most important aspects of this entire problem. So the defendant stands before the bar of justice and the judge has to sentence him. Now how does he determine what a fair sentence is? He has to rely in the main on a probation report. Now does the probation report fully reveal the background, the circumstances, the mental attitudes, the social attitudes of the defendant? I venture this opinion that it does not fully develop that. Because I don't believe that the parole office or the probation office is presently equipped with the proper technical facilities or technicians such as psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, medical people who working as a team can analyze this individual defendant and he is a human being. And he is deserving of every chance. We don't have the facilities to apply all that technical knowledge in determining just exactly what should be done with this defendant.
And so the judge who tries to do his best and does have the help of a moderate amount of skill in that direction, the ordinary probation officer or parole officer who does his best, does not get a really true and accurate picture of the defendant's background in history. And that is so awfully important because I can just finish this by telling you that Judge Irving Ben Cooper testified before our committee told us it was only a few years ago when judges were saying one to ten, one to ten, one to ten, handing sentences out just as by wrote, by numbers, whatever, without ever really knowing what the sentence would be that would do render justice and give this defendant who many people say is a medical case, that is a case that must be judged from the medical approach without ever giving him a fair chance. So that is a very dramatic illustration of which I think answers your question.
Is the state now legally able to give financial aid to the social welfare organizations which are working independently on this problem? Well, the social welfare agencies that address themselves to this problem, I must say that from mind, the limited knowledge that I have acquired on that subject in recent times, not many, there seems to be a reluctance to take on narcotic addicts for rehabilitation and adjustment. And there is some method, I believe, by which the community mental health board may allocate funds to various agencies which are engaged in this field of social and vocational rehabilitation. But the agencies that take on these narcotic cases are few and far between. Jim Fowell, do you think the state legislatures should appropriate funds to increase the psychiatric sociological and therapeutic staffs of the departments of correction in welfare in our city?
In the first instance, answering a question generally without regard as to whether the state should do it, my opinion is that it is almost a must. I certainly believe that the staffs of the parole department and the probation department should be fortified by technicians who can handle these narcotic addicts because it requires a special skill. Let's recognize that immediately. It requires psychiatric therapy. It requires psychological therapy and sociological therapy. And vocational guidance, now probation offices and parole offices do have a certain amount of training in the lot of fields. But I really believe that in the first categories I've mentioned, I think their knowledge is exceedingly limited. Mr. Katzen, what happens to people from a physical and mental standpoint that leads to addiction? I think that question is more a question for a doctor than a council who has just been questioning witnesses on what the problem is.
That's a question that happens before they get into the area of courts and hospitals, and I don't think it's a question we should deal with here. Jim Farrell, what is the rationale the law makes in distinguishing between the social drinker and the periodic occasional user of narcotics? Well, the first thought that occurs immediately is that the use of alcohol is not illegal. That's my question. Otherwise, what is the rationale the law uses in making this distinction? The law makes it one legal and the other illegal. For a time, remember the use of alcohol is also illegal. This is what I'm driving at. In other words, it's prohibition, the answer. Let's recognize this, that laws really are the result of the Morris of the community. Let's agree on that. Such laws as we have reflect the attitudes of the community and the community apparently does not believe that alcoholism has the same impact on people as the same deleterious impact or the stigma, whatever else you choose to call it, as does drug addiction.
There's been a serious debate as to whether or not alcoholism isn't worse than drug addiction. There's considerable controversial testimony on that very point. In short, then, the difference is one of degree. Well, do you think that there's ever a possibility that in the face of defeat at penalizing possession of drugs and selling of drugs without prescriptions or without license, would be abandoned for a more liberal policy of permissive use of drugs? Well, now you're touching upon one of the subjects. I assume you're talking in the area of the use by drugs that are taken by users to maintain themselves. I'm assuming that you're not talking about the peddler, the non-addict peddler. You're talking about the user of drugs.
Well, now as to that, of course, there is... I would assume the non-addict peddler would pass out of existence as did the bootlegger when prohibition was abandoned. It would logically seem to follow. I guess you would always have a certain amount of certitious operations and illegal operations, even if there was a limited field. But you are touching upon the subject really upon whether the clinic system should be adopted and whether it should be a free dispensation of drugs under proper supervision by physicians. And I can tell you that that is a very controversial question. And we've heard the committee heard testimony on both sides of that question. That's been discussed here in New York before at, I believe, congressional hearing a couple of years ago. What's been the progress of that? It's still the same thinking, still two really great sides to it. One violently opposed and the other violently for it. Oh, yes. There's been a great deal of talk about it. Nothing has ever been done about it, I must say.
But the great debate still goes on. Should there be a clinic system or free dispensation of drugs or a system that is comparable to the British system, which has a more tolerant and a more free and easier attitude toward dispensation of drugs by physicians, do you see? Did that come up in detail at your hearings? To some extent, that was discussed and talked about at our hearings. As a matter of fact, you know, we did have a clinic system in the early 20s. I don't know if you know about that, but we did have clinic systems where addicts could, a clinic system where addicts could go to and get drugs. And it was abandoned and it was hailed by some as, that it was characterized by some as an abysmal failure, and they are alterably opposed to the return of the clinic system. Isn't that just a compromise between the two choices of free dispensation and prohibition? Maybe. I just wanted to add in the answer to that the protagonist of the clinic system say that it never did get a fair trial, and they point out that the method that was used in the system was not the proper method, but that under proper supervision and control, a clinic system could work, and they are very strong advocates of that plan and presented their views to our committee.
Witness clinic system involve a certain attempt at weaning these people away from the drugs? Or would it encourage them to continue their present habits? There are two schools of thought on that. Some believe that the ordinary addict who gets a sufficient amount of drugs to sustain as habit is no threat or menace to our society. I'll elaborate on that point to some extent. They say that there's a matter of fact that you never do have trouble with an addict who is getting his shots, his maintenance dosage. The trouble comes when he doesn't get it and when he doesn't get it and he gets that craving that insatiable desire for drugs and he doesn't get it, then he becomes dangerous and commits the crimes.
And they point to illustrations to individual cases where people who have been getting drugs for years have been useful members of society and they just keep on going and they pose no threat. Were any figures presented generally to show that in England, they've got this thing pretty well under control by the clinic system and by giving the drug addict his normal supply? Well, they don't actually have the clinic system. The British system is the dispensation of these drugs by physicians, you see, and the legality of such dispensation. The setup was very much in controversy. We heard arguments that the figures that were given that are generally talked about as about 300 to 400 addicts in all of England is very much in dispute. Testimony showed that they don't include in that the opium addicts. We heard Commissioner Anselinger say that there's more opium and drugs imported in England. There isn't any entire United States.
So even that is in dispute as to whether or not the British system is an efficacious one. Well, our problem here is heroin as I understand it now. It's not an opium that we don't have an opium problem here. So we wouldn't be concerned with that. Was there any discussion of whether it should be a combination of clinic and withdrawal treatment for patients here, for addicts here? In other words, put them on a give them their normal dosage and with a combination of psychiatric treatment. Yes. Yes. Yes. Most certainly so that they could taper off and with the hope that they could ultimately be rehabilitated. Actually, as you know, there is no known cure for the heroin addiction. We know that. There is no known cure for any narcotic addiction as far as we know. Except that we have a stop in the psychiatric cure. But even not even not in many cases, in most cases, is an uncertain one.
Isn't that the process used by the Center in Kentucky, though? Have you heard experts testifying on that? Yes. We heard a lot of the testimony on the value of the work at Lexington, which is a federal hospital for narcotic addicts. And there they do a certain amount of psychiatric research, and they do a certain amount of psychiatric therapy on addicts, and then they release them. But we also heard that most of those, the overwhelming number of those who are released, relapse, become recidivists, and go back to their habits. Just a very short question. And as much as we have 40% of the addicts in the United States and our area, do you think there's a need for a federal hospital in New York? My opinion, I think it would be very, very useful. I'm sorry, Mr. Katzen, but our time is just about up. You've been listening to a campus press conference with Mr. Bernard Katzen, counseled to the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on narcotic study as our guest. In reviewing him were Ruth Korsnick of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Jim Fowell of the Fordham Lexagram, and Bert Kibbrick of the NYU Square Journal.
Many thanks for tuning in, and a very pleasant week to you all. Editors of college newspapers have just interviewed Bernard Katzen, counseled to the New York State Joint Legislative Committee on narcotics on campus press conference. Marvin Sleeper, columnist for the New York Journal American is the moderator of this series. We invite your comments on the program. Please mail them to campus press conference WNYC, New York 7. Be with us again next Sunday at 9 p.m. for campus press conference, a transcribed public affairs feature of your city station.
Campus Press Conference
Bernard Katzen, Counsel to New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Narcotics
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WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
WNYC (New York, New York)
WQED (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
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Episode Description
This episode's guest is Bernard Katzen, Counsel to the NY State Joint Legislative Commission on Narcotics. Questions addressed include: Is Narcotics a police problem or a medical problem? Why is drug addiction so heavily concentrated in New York? Do you think anything constructive came out of the narcotics hearings last week? Questions are posed by Ruth Korsnick of the Columbia School of Journalism; Jim Farrell of the Fordham Lexigram; and Bert Kibrick of the NYU Square Journal.
Series Description
"Vital issues affecting New Yorkers are brought before the public by WNYC, through an unrehearsed radio press conference whereby various personalities in the news are interviewed, and given the opportunity of presenting their views. During the summer of 1957 when there was a rash of juvenile crimes and a resultant clamor for a teen-age curfew in the city, 'Campus Press Conference' presented a program with Ralph W. Whelan, Director of the New York City Youth Board, who definitely opposed the idea of a curfew, and presented a blueprint for community action to solve the problem of juvenile delinquency. This broadcast did much to alleviate the mounting hysteria of the public and stir citizen action to a constructive plan for combatting this major problem. Similarly, other major issues such as the question of fluoridation, the increased rate of drug addiction, the problem of pedestrian safety, and other problems affecting the public [have been presented.]"--1957 Peabody Awards entry form.
Bernard Katzen - Counsel to the NY State Joint Legislative Commission on Narcotics. Is Narcotics a police problem or a medical problem? Why is drug addiction so heavily concentrated in New York? Do you think anything constructive came out of the narcotics hearings last week? For the answers to these and other questions Ruth Korsnick of the Columbia School of Journalism Jim Farrell of the Fordham Lexigram Bert Kibrick of the NYU Square Journal.
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: Korsnick, Ruth
: Farrell, Jim
: Kibrick, Bert
Guest: Katzen, Bernard
Moderator: Sleeper, Marvin
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “Campus Press Conference; Bernard Katzen, Counsel to New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Narcotics ; Muni,” 1957-12-08, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, WNYC, WQED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 8, 2023,
MLA: “Campus Press Conference; Bernard Katzen, Counsel to New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Narcotics ; Muni.” 1957-12-08. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, WNYC, WQED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 8, 2023. <>.
APA: Campus Press Conference; Bernard Katzen, Counsel to New York State Joint Legislative Committee on Narcotics ; Muni. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, WNYC, WQED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from