The war on drugs

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The war on drugs

  1. 1. March 6, 2012 War on Drugs Judicial System on the War on Drugs In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared “War on Drugs”, billions of dollars have beenspent to reduce drug use and drug related crimes in the United States. After his declaration onthe war on drugs which resulted in racial injustices and disparities that haunt U.S. society.Penalizing and intentionally enforcing policies that mainly target minorities transformed the waron drugs into a war on minorities and immigrants. This led to a staggering number of imprisonedminorities, unjust federal and state laws and class structure of discrimination which contributedto a vicious cycle of poverty and crime. After 1970 control substances act, establishclassification for harmful drugs which led to the enforcement of harsher police tactics that gavelicense to stop and frisks under the suspicion of illicit use or possession. The war on drugsaddressed increased drug use amongst young Americans, but quickly became a tool used toperpetuate social and economic control over society through legislation and enforcement. Thenew imprisonment figures document the continuing dramatic impact of incarceration on AfricanAmerican communities. African Americans males are incarcerated at more than six times the rateof white males and Hispanic males more than double the rate. One of every eight black males inthe age group 25-29 is incarcerated on any given day. Racial disparities in incarceration vary broadly among the states. In 7 states, AfricanAmericans are incarcerated at more than 10 times the rate of whites. These states are: Iowa –13.6, Vermont – 12.5, New Jersey – 12.4, Connecticut – 12.0, Wisconsin – 10.7, North Dakota –10.1, and South Dakota – 10.0. In addition, the lowest black rate of incarceration (851 in Hawaii)is greater than that of the highest white rate (740 in Oklahoma). The Sentencing Project, "NewIncarceration Figures: Thirty-Three Consecutive Years of Growth," December 2006. 1
  2. 2. March 6, 2012 War on Drugs In 1973, as drug use and crime rates were on the rise, New York State passed a set ofnarcotics laws that became known by the name of their primary champion, Gov. NelsonRockefeller. Federal legislation using New York States Rockefeller drug laws as a model, targetsimple drug possession. The laws mandated that a conviction for possessing four ounces or moreof heroin or cocaine be punished by at least 15 years to life in prison. These laws made it easierfor prosecutors to prosecute their cases against drug kingpins and lower-level dealers or userswhen faced tough penalties. First-time offenders caught with small amounts of narcotics endedup with lengthy sentences. Their concentration was to send drug felons to prison for very longstretches, with sentences made mandatory and leniency rendered unacceptable even for first-timeoffenders. The Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986 further increase federal drug penalties andinstituted mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of drugs, and anyone whoknowingly involved juveniles in any drug activity. The 1986 act also made it a federal offense todistribute drugs with 1,000 feet of a school. The Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988 further expandedfederal offenses to include the distribution of drugs within one hundred feet of playground,parks, youth centers, swimming pools, and video arcades. The Crime Bill of 1994 provided forcapital punishment for some types of drug selling and instituted criminal enterprise statues thatcalled for mandatory sentences of twenty years to life. The 1998 higher education actdisqualified young people from receiving federal aid for college if they had ever been convictedof a marijuana possession even though no such disqualifications applies to convictions ofoffenses like robbery, rape and manslaughter. The number of new state sentences to prison in 2004 (644,084) was 23% higher than thefigure in 1995 (521,970), despite the fact that crime rates declined significantly during thatperiod. 2
  3. 3. March 6, 2012 War on Drugs Parole revocations have become an increasingly significant contributor to the risingprison population, now accounting for one-third of all admissions to prison, a rate double that ofthe early 1980s. Revocations may be for a new crime, but may also result from technicalviolations of parole, such as testing positive for drugs. The number of people returning to the community from state and federal prisons rose to672,202 in 2004, an increase of 11.1% since 2000. These figures pose substantial challenges forlocal communities in providing employment and housing opportunities since people enteringprison generally have limited job skills and prison programming is often inadequate for the needsof the population. At the federal level, sentencing patterns since the Supreme Court’s January2005 Booker decision granting judges greater discretion in sentencing has not changedsubstantially. The War on Drugs has resulted in more human rights protections than any otheroccurrence in history. A percentage of people who have been incarcerated in the United Statesare legally barred from voting today. When you are labeled a felon the laws judicial systemexcludes them from any form of social and civil rights to obtain employment, housing, denial ofeducational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and prohibiting felonsfrom jury service. The laws have continued to plague poor communities with unjust treatmentand unfair laws particularly to fill a quota, to imprison as many minorities as possible.According to Michelle Alexander “Studies do indicate that, although people of all races use andsell drugs at remarkably similar rates, there are slightly higher rates of crack use among AfricanAmericans and slightly higher rates of meth use among white Americans. The drug of choicemay vary somewhat by race, but in raw numbers there are more white crack users in the UnitedStates than there are black crack users.” 3
  4. 4. March 6, 2012 War on DrugsInstead of shielding our children our children are recruited into a lifestyle drug selling and drugusage by the system. Ernest Drucker states: “He argues that imprisonment originally conceivedas a response to individuals’ crimes has become “mass incarceration”: a destabilizing force thatundermines the families and communities it targets, damaging the very social structures thatprevent crime. Today a total of 7.3 million individuals are under the control of the U.S. criminal justicesystem: 2.3 million prisoners behind bars, 800,000 parolees, and another 4.2 million people onprobation. If this population had their own city, it would be the second largest in the country.Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Total Correctional Population," U.S. Department of Justice. The United States convicts more federal drug offenders for marijuana than for any otherdrug, and sends the vast majority to prison. As a Schedule I drug, marijuana cannot legally beused, even under the care of a physician. Despite evidence to the contrary, the governmentclaims the drug is unsafe and has a high potential for abuse. Nixons own Commission onMarijuana and Drug Abuse recommended decriminalization of the drug.The Institute of Medicine has also refuted many myths that the government perpetuates. It statesthat marijuana: Does not appear to be a "gateway drug" or a significant predictor of serious drug abuse. Does not increase mortality, and does not cause cancer. Rarely leads to addiction, when compared to most other drugs. Can ease nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety. 4
  5. 5. March 6, 2012 War on DrugsPublic opinion in the United States has shifted as well. In a 2003 poll by Zogby International, 41percent of Americans agreed that "the government should treat marijuana more or less the sameway it treats alcohol." This represents the highest support for marijuana legalization in over 30years. Most Americans believe drug use should be treated as a disease rather than a crime, a 2001 surveyrevealed. Thousands of people every year seek treatment and cannot get it 100,000 in New York alone,according to a 1999 estimate. Support for medical marijuana has grown as well. Nine states havelegalized the drug for people with a physicians prescription or recommendation. However, somescientists have precluded that marijuana is the first gateway drug that moves youth onto moretoxic drugs, as heroin and cocaine which causes addictions. Work CitedDrug Treatment Under Correctional Supervision. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of JusticeStatistics. 24 October 2003. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/dcf/dt.htm.Ernest Drucker, "Mass Incarceration in America," in The State of Black America 2003, ed. LeeA. Daniels (New York: National Urban League, 2003).Gray, James (1753). Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed : A Judicial Indictment Of War OnDrugs. Temple University Press. Retrieved March 07, 2012, from Ebook Library.Todd Clear, Imprisoning Communities: How Mass Incarceration Makes DisadvantagedNeighborhoods Worse (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). 5
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