America’s Failing War on Drugs and the Culture of Incarceration

Topics: Drug addiction, Addiction, Illegal drug trade Pages: 6 (2479 words) Published: July 17, 2013
America’s failing War on Drugs and the Culture of Incarceration Richard B. Carpenter
Adams State College

America’s failing War on Drugs and the Culture of Incarceration Richard B. Carpenter
Adams State College

For over a century, America has waged a failing war on drugs even as it feeds a cultural apathetic and underground acceptance of drug and alcohol use. The views of the dominate group have placed blame on society’s ills on the evils of rampant drug use throughout the past few hundred years, which have given way to a practice of outlawing , persecution, and imprisonment. Such a view has led to the overflow of our state’s prisons, the race to build even more, and need to fund a culture of imprisonment that has a difficult time in trying to figure out if it wants to help the addicted person, or continue to try and fund a gluttonous prison machine. We will look at some of the causes for the failed war on drugs, and some of the consequences if our society continues to ignore the need to help the addict, or simply lock them away.

America’s failing War on Drugs and the Culture of Incarceration America has always had an underlying culture of drug use with even many of the harder drugs, like cocaine and heroin, being legal up into the early 1900’s, and drugs like methamphetamine and MDMA, or ecstasy, being legal well into the 20th century. Even one of the most invasive drugs of our culture, alcohol, is widely advertised and taken to be a norm of American culture, and prescription drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin are used by millions legally every day (Brecher, E. M., n.d.). However, while alcohol as been able to enjoy its place as an accepted part of the American lifestyle, drug use of the illicit kind has been steadily demonized, criminalized, and used as a means to incarcerate an ever growing number of people, most often minorities and the poor who are unable to afford outside representation. (Steiker, C. S., 2011) It has created an industry and culture of incarceration dependant on keeping certain drugs illegal, and drug use a felonious criminal act, as those in the industry of building prisons and providing prison services, along with many in law enforcement, continue to lobby state and federal government to keep up overzealous laws on drug use, even laws on drugs proven to be less dangerous than alcohol, such as marijuana, which have come to be quite profitable to all involved. The extent of the problem with this unsuccessful war on drugs includes millions of non violent offenders losing parts of their lives, many sentenced to terms in the tens of years under mandatory sentencing, some simply for no more a heinous crime as first time possession of a small amount of marijuana or crack cocaine. The ability to get federal help for school as well as other federal help programs, to engage in certain basic liberties and rights afforded to all Americans by the Bill of Rights, such as the right to vote, or the right to bear arms, are taken away and either incredibly hard to get back, or all but impossible. Furthermore, even when they have finished paying society for their crime, they are still haunted by the deed whenever they look for work, unable to get jobs because of felony convictions, relegating them to jobs of much lower pay and status, even though they themselves may have the education and experience to fulfill jobs of a much higher caliber. (McVay, D., Schiraldi, V., & Zeidenburg, J., 2004) This process of ‘tough on drugs’ prevention and incarceration keeps the chemically dependent in a vicious cycle where, unable to get help for their addictions and help for success after paying their ‘dues’, their only outcome lies in a repetitive sequence of drug use, bigger crimes to support themselves, and longer imprisonment, in a culture of poverty and incarceration. The outcome is broken hopes, broken dreams, broken families – broken individuals with broken...

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