Ryan Grim writes in "In These Times" that:
At some point, everyone ought to throw his or her political theory—whatever it is—up against the wall of reality to see if it sticks. I ran smack into that wall when the state shackled Mark, one of my best friends, and hauled him off to a dank, violent, maximum-security prison for a 17-year stay. His crime: possession of a spoonful of cocaine.
Grim's point about the horror of war on drugs isn't particularly new, but it dies underscore the importance of personal narrative. The piece works not because he's got an important new thesis but rather because right there, up at the top he introduces Mark. It's an important lesson for those of us who write about the system. People make good stories, and the thought of Mark doing 17 years (which does seem an extraordinary sentence for a "spoonful") hits as hard as any of the arguments he expounds below.