The multi-decade, trillion dollar waste that we call the drug war has become increasingly unpopular, with everyone from Nobel Prize winning economists to leaders from the religious and civil rights communities calling for its end. Those who defend arresting, incarcerating and militarizing our way into even more disaster, often claim that it’s all in the name of protecting children. Yet, the war on drugs is waged with a shocking disregard for human rights, and even babies and children are not spared.
A woman in Texas named Nicole Guerrero recently filed a lawsuit over her 2012 drug possession arrest and detention in a Wichita County jail. She was pregnant at the time, and on the night of June 11, had labor-like symptoms and tried to alert her jailors. Guerrero was ignored for more than four hours. She was subsequently placed in solitary confinement. The following morning, Guerrero was forced to deliver her baby with the help of a guard. The baby was pronounced dead. Guerrero’s lawsuit claims no effort was made to resuscitate the newborn.
A 19-month old toddler is currently in critical condition in a Georgia hospital and awaiting surgery for severe burns resulting from a stun grenade that landed in his crib during a SWAT raid. The raid was the result of a no-knock warrant received after deputies said they bought drugs at the house where the child was sleeping. Appalling photos of the toddler’s badly damaged face have been circulating the internet.
It is a bitter irony that thousands of kids have experienced needless violence or had their families ripped apart in the name of drug prohibition. As many as 2.7 million children are growing up in U.S. households in which one or more parents are incarcerated. And thousands of children have been caught in the violent crossfire caused by drug prohibition in Mexico and throughout Latin America.
These tragedies beg the question “Does the drug war really protect kids and make them safe?” When drugs are criminalized and we wage war on them at all costs, many innocent people, among them children, become collateral casualties. One wonders how many horror stories must accumulate before we say enough is enough with the propaganda about the drug war protecting kids.
Sharda Sekaran is the managing director of communications for the Drug Policy Alliance.