Drug enforcement's doubleedged sword: An assessment of asset forfeiture programs*
This paper presents the first ethnographic examination of asset forfeiture during the drug war era. The study is based on 12 months of covert participant observation, in which one of the authors assumed the role of confidential informant in undercover narcotics operations in a southern state. Contemporary methods of narcotics policing are assessed at two vital points: case selection and police conduct. Findings suggest that asset forfeiture is a dysfunctional policy which, in implementation, has strayed from its original intent and has incurred unintended consequences. Although forfeiture programs generate income, they also cause drug enforcement to serve functions that are inherently contradictory and often at odds with the demands of justice.
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