War on Drugs: Implication on the Criminal Justice System


According to Anonymous (What’s wrong with the drug war, 2010), each and every individual has a stake in bringing to an end the war on drugs. Whether it is a parent who is concerned with offering protection to the children from the harm associated with the drugs, whether it is the social justice advocate concerned with racially unbalanced imprisonment rates, whether it is an environmentalist striving to offer protection to the environment, or any other party; each and every party here has a stake to bring an end to the war on drugs.

The United States of America government has spent huge amounts of money in struggling to eradicate drugs from the nation and yet drugs such as heroin, cocaine among other illegal drugs are becoming cheaper and cheaper and easier to obtain than ever before. A very large number of people are in jail over the drug charges. This paper is going to look at the implications of war on drugs on the criminal justice system, in the past, present, and in the future.

Implications of the war on drugs on the criminal justice system

A connection exists between racial discrimination and the war on drugs all over the world and not just in the United States of America. There is targeting of the minority groups in one country or the other and persecution carried out under the cover of the drug war. The laws put in place (criminal laws) focus on those drugs consumed by the minority groups. However, these laws regard those drugs consumed by the majority groups as being legal drugs and the problems that spring up from their consumption are taken to be problems that have to be dealt with by those parties that provide health care and they not to be handled by the criminal; justice system. In several nations, the minority groups are often targeted and this has been carried out on an unfair ground on the basis of race and ethnicity. The people from such groups are arrested and given severe punishment for the offenses that relate to drugs.

Having incarceration as the main means of offering punishment in the United States of America has gone up to the high level that there are over two million people in the country prisons. US have more people in jail as compared to any other country in the world. However, there is over representation of such people as the blacks, Native Americans, and Latinos all through the prison system of the United States of America. No place within the criminal justice system is the gap between taking into custody, confinement, conviction, and imprisoning people based on their skin color more cruelly clear than in the case of the war on drugs (Drug Policy network, 2001).

The unbalanced treatment of minorities encompasses all stages of the system of criminal justice. Communities of color are always victims of the police and unfair treatment. The rate at which black people are taken to prison in comparison to the rate of the white people taken there is thirteen times higher. According to the Drug Policy network (2001), a report given out in recent times by human rights watch established that the use of drugs is consistent in all racial groups but the likelihood of Blacks and Latinos to be arrested, prosecuted and receiving lengthy imprisonment is very high for the offences related to drugs. Among people who use drugs, Blacks only form 13 percent of this group of people. However, out of these users of drugs 55 percent of those arrested are blacks and they still form 74 percent of those that are taken to prison (Human Rights Watch Report, May 2000). On nationwide basis, the Latinos form 50 percent of those people who are arrested for offences related to marijuana. The Native Americans form almost 75 percent of the people prosecuted for the criminal offenses.

There has been disparity in jail sentences for powder versus crack cocaine. According to the announcements made by courts as well as scientists, there is no balanced basis for making a distinction between powder and crack cocaine. In the year 1994, about nine out of ten people who went through conviction for offenses related to crack cocaine offenses were the black people. Those who were convicted of federal powder cocaine offenses constituted 30 percent black people, the whites formed 26 percent and the Latino formed 43 percent (Human Rights Watch Report, May 2000).

The United States of America drug policy is stimulated by historical unfairness against racial minorities used to bring justification for the unbalanced existence of the penal system. The impacts effects such policies have on the political control and the social systems in the societies of black people as well as Latinos are upsetting. As a consequence of the war on drugs, the poor communities formed by Blacks and Latino have been rendered weak politically by the laws which disenfranchise the people who vote for crime convictions and offer economic motivation for the rural groups of people to consider prisons as a form of economic advancement.

There is the existence of self-perpetuating, recurring quality of the way people of color are treated in the United States of American criminal justice system. The major part of the discrimination springs from the way the makers of the decisions in the United States of America criminal justice system perceive that much of the crimes are made by people from the minority groups and many of the people of the minority groups commit crimes. Even if it is not empirically true, such perceptions bring about an unbalanced share of law enforcement concern to be centered on the minority groups and this eventually brings about more arrests of people of color. Unbalanced arrests stimulate judicial decisions as well as prosecutorial decisions which, in unbalanced way, bring effects to the minority groups and consequently this brings about disparities on the basis of race in incarceration (Tonry, 1996).

The effect that is accumulated is to set up a jail population in which people from minority groups on an increasing level prevailed which eventually brings about reinforcement on the misperceptions which brings in justification in racial outline and punitive drug policies.

According to Kennedy (2003), in the course of the 1920s, the United States of America government set up a major war against drugs. The test of nation ban was well carried out in the course of this time, and the initial determined endeavor to carry out the enforcement of the Harrison Act which was the initial anti-narcotics law (Kennedy, 2003). It is revealed that the war on drugs carried out in the 1920s was less punitive and not on the basis of color in comparison with the recent war on drugs.

In comparison with the present day wars on drugs, those initial efforts carried out in the 1920s drug abuse control concerned less imprisonment period for fewer people. The victims were basically white; the people of color were, in relative terms, under-represented among those people who were taken to jail for offenses linked to narcotics and violations stemming from prohibition in the course of the twenties. However, according to Kennedy (2003), as such statistics give a suggestion that there is a role played by race in regards to giving shape to the way punitive wars on drugs are prosecuted, these statistics do not give out enough information about the way that influence works.

On one hand the war on drugs in the past took place in the course of eras of general moral intolerance, on the other hand the war on drugs in the present time has gone out of such a cycle. The first war in the course of the twenties against narcotics occurred hand in hand with a war against the conventional drug of American society (alcohol). The present day war has come about in the course of a time when the legal drug use has expanded in a volatile way. In the course of the 1990s, there was increased use of substances that were ingestible to handle closely all kinds of problems that can be imagined.

The idea about the negative effects of drugs most of the time has been inextricably linked to the race of people who consume it and the drug use by the minority groups is normally regarded as being of as much harm as compared with white people in the American society. The unmatched sternness of the present day war against drugs is on the basis of the idea that is exaggerated of harm and especially in regard to crack cocaine. There is a thought that white people can handle their drugs in a better way than blacks (African American) people. The consequence of this is a war that is unbalanced. These notions that are overstated about the effects of the use of the illicit drugs by the African Americans are a perverse product of kindness with which the majority society looks at legal drugs. The increasingly “laissez-faire” approach to illegal drugs has brought about deep worries about the lack of the presence of self-reliance, and in a majority of society expels these worries by offering punishment excessively to people who consume the illegal drugs. Race is the vital lubricant which causes this dysfunctional concession to work (Kennedy, 2003).

Recommendations and conclusion

According to the Drug Policy network, (2001), the rich communities that are dominated by white people have for a long time recognized that the drug war does not necessarily require incarceration. Other options such as education on drugs as well as drug treatment are foundations of efforts by white people to bring down the level of drug abuse within their locality. But on the other hand, when it is established that there are drugs in the societies of people of color, the policies that have been set up facilitate the setting up of jail and yet they could set up the amenities for treatment.

If the government of the United States of America is having a genuine commitment to do away with discrimination on the basis of race within the criminal justice system and having to fulfill the responsibility it has, it must take an initiative to bring to an end racial profiling, set up obligatory minimum drug sentences and civil disabilities for crime convictions (Jonathan, 1997). The decision-makers in the criminal justice system like the prosecutors, the police, among others should take responsibility for the decisions they make that are discretionary. More so, there must be well seen acknowledging by the government that there is actually a failure in the war on drugs and the policy set in regard to this has not been able to succeed and the government should agree that this policy is bringing more harm to people than doing any good to them and especially the people who are of color.

Therefore to conclude, the war on drugs has not been won. This war has brought several negative implications especially to people who come from the minority groups. This failure to win this war has basically stemmed from lack of appropriate policies to deal with this problem. The policies put in place in regard to the war against drugs bring in the wrong notion. This notion is that the minority groups are more prone to the harm brought in by the drugs and the white people can handle their drugs in a better way. Such policies should be abolished and new policies put in place. This will facilitate the fight against drugs in a balanced ground since the problems associated with this war have resulted in the fight against drugs being unbalanced.

Reference List

Anonymous, (2010). What is wrong with the war on drugs? Web.

Drug Policy network, (2001). Race, the war on drugs and the United States Criminal Justice System. Web.

Human Rights Watch Report (May 2000). Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, Vol. 12, No. 2 (G).

Jonathan P. C., et al. (1997). Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences: Throwing Away the Key or the Taxpayer’s Money, Rand, Santa Monica, p. xxiv.

Kennedy E. J., (2003). Drug wars in Black and White. Web.

Tonry M. H., (1996). Malign Neglect: Race, Crime, and Punishment in America. Oxford University Press US.

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