Kathryn DeHoyos explains how, after four decades of enforcement, the the racist drug policies of the U.S. have failed.
The war on drugs has failed. After 41 years and over $1 trillion spent what does the U.S. have to show for it? For starters, we have the largest prison population in the world. CNN reported recently,
[There are] about 2.3 million behind bars. More than half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation.
About 40,000 people were in U.S. jails and prisons for drug crimes in 1980, compared with more than 500,000 today. Excessively long prison sentences and locking up people for small drug offenses contribute greatly to this ballooning of the prison population
On the surface these numbers would seem to indicate that the U.S. drug policies are working, right? Wrong. In fact, just like with prohibition in the 1920’s and 30’s, which gave rise to organized crime and increased hard liquor consumption across the country, these policies have only exacerbated the problem. Instead of reducing the number over the last four decades the US has managed to move into the No. 1 spot for illegal drug use worldwide.
But what is even more disturbing is the number of minorities who are imprisoned on drug charges. Some may argue that it is because minorities are the problem. That people of color are quite obviously the majority of the people who sell and use drugs. And again, on the surface the numbers would seem to support that argument. However, as the CNN report goes on to point out,
People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than white people — yet from 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested for drug law violations at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates.
So, not only can it be said that the federal government’s drug policy is ineffective, but that it is a blatantly racist one as well. If white people are just as likely as people of color to be both users and dealers, why is it that the majority of people in prison for drug law violations are minorities? Racial discrimination, whether touted as drug policy or not, is still discrimination and is unacceptable. The prohibition of alcohol was a failure, and although it has taken over 40 years for us to see, the supposed war on drugs is an abysmal failure as well.