The War on Drugs and the Prison Industrial Complex

The War on Drugs was first declared by President Nixon in 1972 (the "war" part was intended to mirror LBJ's War on Poverty, which used militarized language to suggest hard core commitment to the eradication of poverty. By the way, how's that war coming along anyhow?). Nixon's plan was to reduce the supply & demand for illegal drugs that the feds had deemed harmful to the American populace. The "schedules" used to classify drugs according to their perceived usefulness was born with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 & the DEA was established shortly there after to enforce federal drug policy. The cry for drug & narcotics regulation stemmed from reports about the unusually high rates of heroin usage amongst American military men serving in Vietnam and the belief that the social upheaval of the 1960's & 70's was fueled by a drug culture that was intent on destroying "America's values". In 1988, Reagan's administration created the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the position of U.S. Drug Czar to head up the ONDCP, after which the criminalization of small time drug users & dealers was a matter of national policy.

Since the declaration of war was made, the United States has enlisted the help, cooperation, and/or subservience of various foreign nations to carry out military actions & influence policy under the guise of eradicating drug abuse, thus encroaching on the sovereign rights of nations and expanding the role of America in international politics. We've used the War on Drugs to justify invading Panama, financing Columbia's internal military conflict with the FARC, and placing DEA agents all over the world to investigate drug trafficking outside our borders (which, by the way, isn't our right to do).

Probably the most disastrous aspect of the War on Drugs is it's effects on the civil liberties of the American people. Freedom from illegal search and seizure, guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, is often disregarded in drug enforcement cases & sometimes legislation validates this violation. Forced sterilization of drug addicted mothers was (and is) imposed. Millions are incarcerated for decades for non-violent drug crimes; their possessions are confiscated, their children are shuffled into the social services system, their rights are trampled; all in the name of Drug Policy.

The National Research Council commissioned the Committee .. and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs to look into the effects of the War on Drugs in 1998. In 2001, their findings were published. The NRC committee statement read: "It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether and to what extent it is having the desired effect." Essentially, we have no substantial results to justify U.S. drug policy or the hundreds of billions of dollars we throw at the problem annually.

It is my opinion (and that of scores of intellectuals, law enforcement personnel, policy analysts, activists, and average Joe's nationwide) that the War on Drugs is a failed endeavor that only serves to feed the bloated Prison System and subject the American people to life in a police state. My reasoning is as follows:

The War on Drugs hasn't reduced drug use, drug abuse, or drug traffic & has, therefore, failed. Do you know anyone that hasn't smoked weed? I pretty much assume anyone I come across smokes pot or at least they used to before they had to quit for a job, a drug test, pregnancy, or paranoia. Most of the chicks I know have been into meth at one point or another. I have a mother, three uncle(types), two aunt(types), and have had at least two close personal friends that were heroin addicts. Everyone sees the dozens of crack heads that prowl the corner of Harding & Pacific. With a little effort, I'm sure I could get my hands on any Schedule I or II narcotic I could think of. Just my own personal experience proves to me that prohibition ain't working! Cocaine & opiates have to be imported here, so their continued presence proves the inadequacy of anti-trafficking measures. As long as there is money to be made & good times to be had, I doubt that the illegal drug trade can ever be eradicated.

Drug prohibition is unconstitutional: The founding document of our country explicitly outlines the powers of the federal government, because our Founders were understandably wary of an over bearing central government. Nowhere in the Constitution does it grant federal oversight of drug policy, but Washington has erroneously claimed the right anyhow. According to the tenth amendment in the Bill of Rights, "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Additionally, the liberty granted to the people in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments is illegally denied by prohibition.

Far too much money is wasted on Drug War policies: In 2006, the U.S. allocated $30 billion for the drug war campaign's annual budget. This figure does not include the cost of housing non-violent drug offenders in prison or providing for the orphaned children of prisoners.

Personal freedom is an American value: That somehow is completely ignored when policy makers talk about drug use! It baffles me that the mighty American government concerns themselves with what people choose to do in their free time! How is it a federal concern that Joe Schmo gets high or Suzy Homemaker get wired? Frankly, it's not. They aren't terribly concerned with whether or not we have food on our tables, whether we receive an adequate education, or have access to healthcare, so personal drug use shouldn't be a political talking point either.

Incarceration rates are astronomical & ridiculous: Using mandatory minimum sentences, no-knock raids, and plea bargain informants, the feds have managed to lock up more of our population for bullshit than any other nation. The sentences for black men charged with drug crimes are on average 49% longer than for white men. The number of women incarcerated for drug offenses has risen 421% since 1986, with 70-75% of those being non-violent offenders.

I've got more to say, but I'm strapped for time at the moment, so I'll leave you with these words of wisdom:

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

- Hunter S. Thompson

"Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle drugs."

- Lily Tomlin

"Where you find the laws most numerous, there you will find also the greatest injustice"

- Arcesilaus

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