April 24, 2005

Montana life and meth

"What's the lesson of a case in which a long series of "victimless" crimes somehow resulted in a lot of victims?"

Thanks to Mark A. R. Kleiman for leading me to this set of articles:

Hal Herring at New West has a hair-raising six-part series on what methamphetamine has brought to the Lake Flathead area of Western Montana. The story isn't just about meth... And it's told through the lens of a truly bizarre case about a wealthy and respected businessman who developed an entirely new approach to credit counseling. The series is a superb piece of reporting...

Here is a sample from the first installment:

It’s a low-wage, no-wage world, inhabited by the children who grew up in the death throes of the old economy. Their parents worked in the aluminum mill...or in the big sawmills that ran three shifts a day. They cut the timber or ran the skidders...or drove the trucks that hauled it to the mills.

Those were good jobs and they paid for simple houses and cars and fed families...But those jobs are gone now, and the children of those families... are marooned in a new economy...cleaning hotel rooms, punching a till, serving coffee, hammering nails in the condo developments, or doing nothing at all.

There are no lattes here, no Patagonia fleece or Sage flyrods. It’s a place where home-cooked methamphetamine is king and queen... People from that world don’t go skiing... They meet in front of the Flathead County Jail, smoking cigarettes and talking about who’s locked up, and who’s getting out...

Read the other installments:

  • Part 2: A Mother's Worst Nightmare
  • Part 3: A Pillar of the Community
  • Part 4: 'Our Give-a-Shitters Were Broken'
  • Part 5: The Scourge of Rural America
  • Part 6: Crime and Punishment