Archive for May, 2009

Report Card on The War on Drugs

05/26/2009

is well documented by the Sentencing Project, the national drugs policy which emphasized and funded punishment and incarceration over treatment is one the primary reasons for the explosive growth in of the prison system in the United States over the past 25 years. The policy, a failed one, as acknowledged by the Obama administration, has affected all aspect of the justice system and, consequently, the American Society. The policy has reeked havoc on communities of black and brown communities: putting young men and women in prison, disrupting their lives, separating them from their families, and giving them a felony along with all of the attending consequence. Key indicators of the “War on Drugs” on American communities in general reveal:

 Drug arrest have tripled in the last 25 years
 Marijuana possession arrest accounted for 79% of the growth in drug arrest in the 1990s
 Nearly a half-million (493,800) persons are in state or federal prison or local jail for a drug offense, compared to an estimate 41,100 in 1980
  Nearly 6 in 10 in state prison for a drug offense have no history of violent or high-level drug selling activity
 African Americans comprise 14% if regular drug users, but are 37% of those arrested for drug offences and 56% of persons in state prison for drug offenses
 African Americans serve almost as much time in federal prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months)
 Persons in prison with a history of regular drug use are less than half as likely to be receiving treatment

What is to be done:

The human cost of mass incarceration is increasingly visible, and so, too, are the economic costs. According to the Pew Center on the States, total state general fund expenditures on corrections rose 315 percent from 1987 to 2007, while 13 states devote more than $1 billion per year out of general funds to their corrections departments. (At nearly $9 billion, California’s annual spending on corrections leads the nation.) There is empirical evidence, as reflected above, to show that the “War on Drugs” has been harmful, resulting in mass incarceration, broken lives, and wasteful spending at the expense of education and developmental services. In simple terms, what needs to be done is to take the money that is being spent on incarcerating persons for what has now become to be seen as a public health problem  and refocus the money at community based and capacity building level because it’s better for public safety and will save money and rebuild lives.

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