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Sun Nov 25, 2012, 10:27 AM

The Successes of the U.S. “War on Drugs”

After 40 years of the U.S. “War on Drugs”, at a cost of about $1 trillion, it would behoove our country’s leaders to consider what we have gained from our efforts and cost. Eugene Jarecki had this to say about it:

Over forty years, the “war on drugs” has cost a trillion dollars and accounted for 45 million drug arrests. Yet for all that, America has nothing to show but a legacy of failure. Drugs are cheaper, purer, more available and used by more and younger people today than ever before...

In making his film about the “War on Drugs”, “The House I Live in”, Jarecki wanted to look beyond the statistics. He continues:

So I visited more than twenty-five states to meet people at all levels of the drug war whose lives have been affected by our misguided laws and vast prison system. What I found on the ground was nothing short of shattering. Wherever I went, everyone involved – prisoners, cops, judges, jailers, wardens, medical experts, senators – all described to me a system out of control, a predatory monster that sustains itself on the mass incarceration of fellow human beings. Their crimes, most often the nonviolent use or sale of drugs in petty quantities, have become such a warping fixation for our prison-industrial complex that they are often punished more severely than violent crimes…

But surely a program sustained for 40 years and costing a trillion dollars must have some major consequences that appeal some people. Let’s take a look at some of these “successes”.


The U.S. leads the world in imprisoning people

Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. prison population increased from about 300,000 to over 2,000,000. so that the United States now has by far the highest prison rate of any nation in the world – 751 persons in prison per 100,000 population in 2008. Russia was a distant second. The number of incarcerated drug offenders increased from about 42 thousand in 1980 to 455 thousand in 2000. But the role of the “War on Drugs” in increasing the overall incarceration rate appears misleadingly low from these figures: Concurrently there has been a massive increase in incarceration for parole violations, which is almost entirely due to the “War on Drugs”. Under the rules of the “War on Drugs”, people can be sent to prison for such parole violations as missing an appointment with one’s parole officer or failing to maintain employment.

Racial and class disparity in the United States for imprisonment for drug offenses is well known. Though the Federal Household Survey (See item # 6) indicated that 72% of illicit drug users are white, compared to 15% who are black, blacks constitute a highly disproportionate percent of the population arrested for (37%) or serving time for (42% of those in federal prisons and 58% of those in state prisons) drug violations.

Combine that with a multitude of state laws that don’t allow felons or ex-felons to vote, and we have a substantial effect on the U.S. electorate. As a result of these laws, almost 8% of otherwise eligible African American voters were not allowed to vote in 2012, compared to only 1.8% of other U.S. voters. Since African Americans have voted overwhelmingly Democratic in recent U.S. elections, it is easy to see why this consequence of the “War on Drugs” would be considered a great success by many people.


Corporate profits

The prison industry
Coincident with the burgeoning prison population in the United States, there has also been a large increase in the number of private prisons, from five in 1995 to 100 in 2005, in which year 62,000 persons were incarcerated in private prisons in the United States. Profits are especially high in this industry because of the use of slave labor. The owners of these prisons have a financial interest in more frequent and longer prison sentences, for which they have lobbied extensively. Tara Herivel and Paul Wright assiduously document the machinations of the prison-industrial complex in their book, “Prison Profiteers – Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration”. From the book jacket:

Beginning with the owners of private prison companies and extending through a whole range of esoteric industries… to the U.S. military (which relies on prison labor) and the politicians, lawyers, and bankers who structure deals to build new prisons, “Prison Profiteers” introduces us to a motley group of perversely motivated interests and shows us how they both profit from and perpetrate mass incarceration.

It turns out that locking up 2.3 million people isn’t cheap… “Prison Profiteers” traces the flow of capital from public to private hands, reveals how monies designated for the public good end up in the pockets of enterprises dedicated to keeping prison cells filled, and challenges us to see incarceration through completely different eyes.

Obviously the “War on Drugs” must be considered a great success from the viewpoint of the prison industry.

The pharmaceutical industry
Many illicit drugs have important medical uses, but because of the “War on Drugs” their use for medical purposes is either completely outlawed or severely curtailed. Marijuana provides exceptionally good symptomatic relief or treatment for a wide range of medical conditions, for which there is no better or even comparable alternative treatment. Yet the pharmaceutical industry and the prison industry (among others) has lobbied extensively against the legalization of medical marijuana, and the federal government has complied by over-ruling state enacted medical marijuana laws. This adds to the huge profits of the pharmaceutical industry while denying millions of Americans symptomatic relief from serious diseases such as cancer or AIDS.


Recent developments in the drug war

Many states in recent years have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. Now for the first time, in the 2012 elections two states, Colorado and Washington, approved ballot initiatives legalizing recreational use of marijuana. But what will the federal response to that be?

Though Barack Obama promised in 2008 that as president he would not interfere with state medical marijuana laws, his Department of Justice has acted otherwise. In October 2011, they began large-scale raids on medical marijuana cultivators and distributors in states where medical marijuana was legal. Federal authorities have since raided and shut down 600 dispensaries in California alone.

For what purpose? Is this the result of pressure from those who profit from the drug war? Does President Obama really believe it is a good expenditure of federal resources to prevent people from receiving the medical benefits of marijuana and brand as criminals those who strive to make that possible, in accordance with state laws? Was this done on the initiative of the Department of Justice, with no input from the President? Few in any people know the answers to these questions, as the President has said almost nothing about it.

Katrina vanden Hueval, in "It's time to End the War on Drugs", had this to say about the subject:

If left free of federal intrusion, Colorado and Washington might become a model for legalizing and taxing marijuana. If successful, the experiment could yield millions in tax revenues and drastically decrease incarceration rates, while giving members of Congress more incentive to change federal law. It could even help improve U.S. relations with Latin America, and help demilitarize our hemispheric policies with our closest neighbors, particularly Mexico….

This holiday, as President Obama pardons the traditional turkey, let’s hope he also considers the millions of Americans trapped in a cruel, senseless system.

The $1 trillion cost of the “War on Drugs” noted at the beginning of this post doesn’t include the vast individual costs in terms of destroyed families and lives. Yet no system endures for 40 years if there aren’t at least some people who profit from it. Indeed, there are many who profit greatly from the U.S. “War on Drugs”, and they have spent tons of money bombarding the American people with their propaganda and lobbying our government to perpetuate it. It is well past time for decent, open minded and intelligent people to reassess the costs of this “war” to the American people and weigh those costs against whatever benefits it produces for some.

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Arrow 22 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Successes of the U.S. “War on Drugs” (Original post)
Time for change Nov 2012 OP
RainDog Nov 2012 #1
CrispyQ Nov 2012 #2
TheKentuckian Nov 2012 #3
Scuba Nov 2012 #5
ProudProgressiveNow Nov 2012 #15
Time for change Nov 2012 #17
Tuesday Afternoon Nov 2012 #4
Scuba Nov 2012 #6
underpants Nov 2012 #7
brewens Nov 2012 #8
texshelters Nov 2012 #9
Egalitarian Thug Nov 2012 #10
felix_numinous Nov 2012 #11
valerief Nov 2012 #12
gulliver Nov 2012 #13
zeemike Nov 2012 #14
duhneece Nov 2012 #19
blackspade Nov 2012 #16
Time for change Nov 2012 #18
WillyT Nov 2012 #20
Time for change Nov 2012 #21
riderinthestorm Nov 2012 #22

Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 10:30 AM

1. k&r n/t

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 11:13 AM

2. Kick.

And bookmarking.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 11:25 AM

3. Got that right. Private ownership or even management of incarceration facilities

needs to be fundamentally illegal and we need to start moving in a direction that eventually will lead to an environment where an amendment is possible.

The insanely high levels of conflict of interest should be obvious and frightening to some degree, no matter how straight an arrow someone may be. Eventually, profits would trump innocence, they are legally bound to protect and advance their shareholder's profits. Profit is the prime directive.

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Response to TheKentuckian (Reply #3)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 11:41 AM

5. +1,000

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Response to TheKentuckian (Reply #3)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:22 PM

15. +1 nt

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Response to TheKentuckian (Reply #3)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 04:26 PM

17. Absolutely

It is so sad and tragic that most people apparently don't see that -- or just don't care to see it.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 11:41 AM

6. Kick for sanity.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 11:59 AM

7. AND (Bonus!) they can't vote!!!

I am being sarcastic of course

Marking for later read of the Slave Labor link. Thanks.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:22 PM

8. Oh, the right people have a lot to show for it. A hell of a lot! That was the real point

anyway. Just like the war in Iraq. Over $4000 dead for nothing? Not a chance. The people making fortunes off of everyone of those dead troops can tell you to the penny what their lives were worth.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:27 PM

9. I just saw a show on the Mexican drug cartels

and how they are the leading producer of Marijuana (and leading cause of death in many border communities). If we care about lives in Mexico and the U.S., we need to legalize MJ, NOW!

PTxS

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:36 PM

10. K&R. This cannot be said often enough. This is but one of the symptoms of the fundamental

 

failings of our societal system. Anti-competitive and extractive profit systems are, instead of severely limited and regulated short-term evils tolerated because of some immediate need, they have become the rule under which our society is failing.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:39 PM

11. If we can afford the Drug War,

new drones and all the new prisons, we can afford FULL social services for all Americans. The prison and arms businesses have been manufacturing an American (and overseas) dystopia in order to stay in business. They are an obstruction to the democratic process by fostering a climate of fear and suspicion. This is a social disease.

http://securitydebrief.com/2011/02/02/predator-uav-costs-an-analysis-of-alternatives-that-needs-further-analysis/

As of 2010, CBP operated four Predator UAVs out of Arizona, one of out Texas and one out of North Dakota.

The unit cost for one Predator is about $4.5 million, according to DHS estimates. But the costs of operating a UAV can become more than double the costs of operating a manned aircraft, said the Congressional Research Service (CRS) last summer. (See Homeland Security: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Border Surveillance.)

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/prison-profit-industry-corporation-money-jail

$1.7 billion: Total revenue recorded by CCA in 2011

$17.4 million: Lobbying expenditures in the last 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

$1.9 million: Total political contributions from 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics

$3.7 million: Executive compensation for CEO Damon T. Hininger in 2011

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:45 PM

12. I don't understand why they don't rename it "The War for For-Profit Prisons." nt

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 12:58 PM

13. Calling it a "war" encouraged hatred and revenge

What a staggering cost America is paying for a metaphor. At some point, doesn't the war on drugs need to be proven safe and effective in order to be prescribed as a cure for our drug problems? Not many things in life respond to "hit bad thing with stick" thinking. All we are doing is making our drug abuse risks and damage a lot worse.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:16 PM

14. Once something becomes an industry it cannot be stopped.

Way too much money involved...and it can and does only grow...
And the next step is drones to spy on people.
To end it will require great political pressure.

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Response to zeemike (Reply #14)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 05:41 PM

19. The industry of slavery by 'civilized nations' has stopped by people taking action

We CAN speak up and take action...and I ask all of us to do so, by writing to legislators, speaking up in your community, working to inform yourselves, join LEAP Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (no $, no meetings...the best) and/or Drug Policy Alliance.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 02:40 PM

16. K&R!

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 05:16 PM

18. pillorying the innocent

Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep… You are innocent… Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty… You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put in foster care. A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty… The judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless…

From the book, “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”, by Michelle Alexander, describing one of the many millions of casualties of the U.S. “War on Drugs”.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 05:44 PM

20. HUGE K & R !!!


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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Tue Nov 27, 2012, 03:36 PM

21. Perverse financial incentives

The Reagan administration developed an aggressive strategy of financial incentives. Great amounts of cash and equipment were held out to state and local law enforcement agencies if they would help with the “War on Drugs”. Here is part of Michele Alexander’s discussion on that issue, from her book, "The New Jim Crow":

Huge cash grants were made to those law enforcement agencies that were willing to make drug-law enforcement a top priority… This federal grant money has resulted in the proliferation of narcotics task forces… Other forms of valuable aid have been offered as well… free training, intelligence, and technical support… The Pentagon has given away military intelligence and millions of dollars in firepower to state and local agencies willing to make the rhetorical war a literal one…

By the late 1990s, the overwhelming majority of state and local police forces in the country had availed themselves of the newly available resources and added a significant military component to buttress their drug-war operations.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Reagan administration and Congress then granted state and local law enforcement the right to keep large portions of seized assets for themselves. Consequently, in 1988-1992 state and local “drug task forces” seized over $1 billion in assets as a result of drug war activities.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Tue Nov 27, 2012, 04:11 PM

22. Kicked. Recced. Bookmarked. As always TFC, a most excellent and timely OP nt

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