Racial Disparities and the War on Drugs

Topics: Illegal drug trade, Mandatory sentencing, Drug control history Pages: 7 (2419 words) Published: August 28, 2010
Running Head: The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs and Sentencing Disparities

Social Policy Analysis Paper

Janet Gaines

Hood College

This paper will examine the history of the “War on Drugs” and the racial and sentencing disparities that have resulted because of it. In the House of Representatives a new bill was introduced on January 7, 2009. Policy number H.R.265, was cited as “Drug Sentencing reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2009. The never ending drug trade and the policies that try to limit it, have far-reaching impacts in the United States and other countries. Over the last twenty years, U.S. politicians have responded to mounting drug abuse at the local and national levels with increasingly unjustly legislation. Cooperatively, these measures have become known as the ‘War on Drugs’. In the United States, these policies have focused on the link between drug, gang activity, and crime, emphasizing punishment over treatment. Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses have been put in place, leading to an explosion in the number of people incarcerated nationwide. Racial disparities in drug sentencing, particularly in crack vs. powder cocaine offenses, also stem from the ‘War on Drugs’ policy. The War on Drugs is a prevention campaign that was established by the United States Government with the aid of participating countries, with the intention of reducing illegal drug trade. This initiative includes a set of laws and policies that are intended to discourage the manufacturing and distribution of illegal substances. The term was first used by then President Richard Nixon in 1969. In June of, Nixon officially declares a "war on drugs," identifying drug abuse as public enemy No. 1. Then in October of 1986 President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of, which appropriated $1.7 billion to fight the drug war. The bill also created mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses, which are criticized for promoting major racial disparities in the prison population because of the differences in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine. Possession of crack cocaine, which is cheaper, results in a harsher sentence; the majority of crack users are lower income minorities. Description of the problem

The United States is the largest consumer of illicit drugs in the world. 2/3 of U.S. funding for drug control programs has gone to programs to limit supply, only 1/3 has gone to programs to limit demand. The United States has spent $40 billion on drug control abroad over the last 25 years. The number of people incarcerated in the United States has increased six-fold since 1980. Drug arrests have more than tripled in the last 25 years. Drug offenders make up more than half of all federal prisoners. Nearly a half-million individuals are in prison or jail for a drug offense. Most of the drug policy debate centers around whether the war on drugs is racist.
The Policy
Policy number H.R.265, this act was cited as “Drug Sentencing reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2009. Section. 2 Findings
Paragraph 3, of the policy; Congress found that one of the primary objectives of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which recognized different mandatory minimum penalties for different drugs, was to target Federal law enforcement and prosecutors resources on serious and major drug...

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