War on Drugs and the Correlation to Crime and Violence
Arizona State University
CRJ 408 Drugs and Crime
Word Count: 1,186
“In the nine years from 1980 to 1989, the arrest rate for possession of drugs increased by 89%, from 199 to 375 per 100,000 population” (Belenko and Spohn, 2015, p 117-118). The 1980’s contemporary War on Drugs established by Ronald Reagan lead us into a more retributive era of drug law enforcement. Changes in laws were rooted in the belief that drugs and drug related crimes were at an all-time high and considered an epidemic taking over our US communities. These ideals were magnified through the sensationalized media portrayal of crack cocaine described as the most addictive drug known to man. The US government embraced a zero tolerance policy which resulted in the extreme increase of incarcerations related to drug charges at the local, state and federal levels. (Belenko and Spohn, 2015, p. 102-103) Reagan established that the use illegal drugs was a threat to national security and promised that his administration was determined to end the drug epidemic in the United States. (Belenko and Spohn, 2015, p. 102) In 1982 Vice President George H.W. Bush combined various agencies and military branches to create the South Florida Drug Force to prevent the entrance of cocaine from Colombia (NPR, March 02, 2007). In 1984 the First Lady Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign; the media and American education was flooded with anti-drug messages (Bagley, M.B., 1988) The moral panic caused during this era is contributed to the media headlines of crack babies whose “biological inferiority is stamped at birth”, reports of “crack whores” trading sex for drug hits and the fear of instant addiction. (Schneider, E, 2015, p. 1-2) Communities were intimidated through the overly exaggerated media coverage on the severity of drug related crimes. To make sense of this societal fear we must first review the correlation between drug use, violent crime, health and social problems. We must consider the connection from various perspectives. Sociologist Erick Goode suggests the Enslavement model which claims that an individual’s dependence on drugs causes them to commit crimes to sustain their drug habit (Belenko and Spohn, 2015 p. 72). Nicki from the BBC documentary, Crackhouse, is the perfect example of someone that fits this theory. Nicki prostituted herself and stole in order to maintain her crack addiction. Goldstein proposed the psychopharmacological model which suggests that certain drugs, especially stimulants like cocaine, increases aggression, hostility and irrationality which increase the potential for aggressive and violent behavior. Goldstein also suggests the systemic violence is linked to the aggressive interactions in the system of drug dealing and use. Violence arises from the dangers of working or doing business in an illicit market such as “turf wars” or feuds among drug dealers (Belenko and Spohn, 2015, p. 76-77). There is no single answer the question of whether and how drug use causes criminal behavior, highlighting the importance in consideration of different model theories. Many arrestees test positive for illicit drug use suggesting that drugs caused an individual to commit a crime. However, there are other factors to consider before making this determination, we need to consider the types of drugs involved in the offenses that cause people to be arrested. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 1,552,432 arrests for drug possession, including 42.2% for marijuana possession and only 16.5 for heroin or cocaine possession (FBI, 2013)” (Belenko and Spohn, 2015, p 61). Individuals may be arrested for selling or possessing certain drugs like marijuana because they are illegal, however, if such drug was legalized the “link” between drug use and crime could disappear.
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