September 24, 2007

The War on Drugs: "A 25-year quagmire"

Half a million Americans behind bars for drugs

The Sentencing Project has just released a scathing critique documenting the failures and unintended social consequences of the so-called War on Drugs. "A 25-Year Quagmire: The War on Drugs and Its Impact on American Society" assesses the strategy of combating drug abuse primarily with enhanced punishments at the expense of investments in treatment and prevention.

Among the findings:
  • Drug arrests have more than tripled since 1980 to a record 1.8 million by 2005
  • Four of five drug arrests are for possession offenses, more than a quarter involving marijuana
  • Nearly 6 in 10 people in state prison for drug offenses have no history of violence or high-level drug selling
  • A shortage of treatment options in many low-income neighborhoods contributes to the handling of drug abuse as a criminal justice problem instead of a social problem.