Retired Officer, California Department of Corrections
San Leandro, CA
"The cartels were built in response to the War on Drugs. The way to stop them is to stop prohibition."
Rich Brunelle served with the California Department of Corrections for fourteen years. He worked in San Quentin as an officer, instructor, firefighter and counselor. As a Court Litigation Coordinator, he cooperated with the California Gang Activity Task Force and the California Crime Activity Task Force. As a Correctional Counselor, he conducted research into inmates’ histories to determine their potential risk.
By age twelve, Rich knew that he wanted to work in law enforcement. He was initially excited by the opportunity to lock up some of the state’s most notorious gang leaders in San Quentin. But after more than a decade of seeing inmates cycle in and out, he realized that our prison system isn’t preventing crime; it is the incubator for criminal organizations. Rich describes how over and over, he saw a young nonviolent offender become hardened by a long jail sentence. “His whole future is decided from this point. A year later he no longer is polite and friendly. For the rest of his life, he will carry the jacket of ‘criminal’ and will have to say so on job applications. He has lost the right to vote. His future likely has nothing of real value to offer him and it will continue to affect his children.”
Rich believes that to solve our problems with cartel and gang violence, we must end drug prohibition. “Our war on drugs has made criminals rich and has created the most sophisticated criminal enterprises in world history. The cartels were built in response to the war on drugs. The way to stop them is to stop prohibition.”
A disability forced Rich to retire shortly after being named to the rank of Lieutenant. Today he works in construction permitting and lives in San Leandro, CA.