A 2009 report titled “One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections” reveals the stark reality of America’s growing prison population; 1 out of every 31 adults in the U.S. is in prison. When the numbers are broken down by racial category, 1 in 11 African-Americans, 1 in 27 Latinos, and 1 in 45 whites is in prison or on probation or parole. The prison population has become racialized, which is grossly unfair and unjust.
This racial oppression is due in no small part to the federal government’s War on Drugs. We already know from Common Sense for Drug Policy that 50% of federal inmates in 2014 were locked up for drug offenses. They also tell us that 59% of America’s prison population is just black and Hispanic.
According to the California Law Review, there’s a 100-to-1 disparity in convictions for crack-cocaine versus powder cocaine; crack-cocaine is known on the streets as the “black man’s drug” while powder cocaine is the “white man’s drug.”
The disparity in convictions goes deeper than the potency of the drug; it’s institutionalized racism from multiple decades ago that still lingers like a cancer that always come back from remission.
Similar to the way leaving the work force for child birth and early child care can have a negative economic impact for women, being out of the work force and civil society for years at a time has a devastating impact on minority and low-income communities of all races and ethnic groups, but especially the black and Hispanic communities. 50% of this damage can be traced to the federal drug war.
The drug war, which really began with alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, intensified in the 1970s with huge federal pushes against marijuana and cocaine. The drug war intensified in the 1980s when crack-cocaine became an epidemic, and the oppressive drug war continues into the 21st century. It’s no accident that America’s prison population rose from 200,000 in 1970 to 1.4 million in 2003, with another 700,000 in county jails or on probation or parole. Today, more than 4 million Americans are on probation or parole, and half of them will have had drug convictions.
The racist drug war must end before it destroys more American lives, especially in the communities that can afford it the least. The Libertarian Party has been against the drug war since the Party’s founding in 1971—over four decades before the Democrat Party decided marijuana decriminalization was fashionable. The Libertarian Party of Nevada is actively working to fully legalize marijuana in Nevada and bring the federal drug war one dramatic step closer to ending.
Next: America’s racist drug war has actually prolonged American military conflict and created more terrorism in the Middle East and Latin America.