Forty Years of Failure
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs – a critical time to shine a spotlight on 40 years of failed policy.
Since the declaration of a “war on drugs” 40 years ago:
America has spent at least $1 trillion on the drug war. It cost U.S. taxpayers at least $51 billion in 2009 at the state and federal level. That’s $169 for every man, woman and child in America – and that’s not counting opportunity costs or costs at the local level.
- Millions of people have been incarcerated for low-level drug law violations, resulting in drastic racial disparities in the prison system, yet drug overdose, addiction and misuse are more prevalent than ever.
- Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost to overdose and drug-related disease because cost-effective and lifesaving interventions are not sufficiently available.
The war on drugs drives mass incarceration of Americans:
- More than 1 of every 100 American adults is behind bars. In 1980, the total U.S. prison and jail population was about 500,000 – today, it is more than 2.3 million.
- The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world – both per capita and in terms of total people behind bars. The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it has almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.
- The number of people behind bars for drug law violations rose from 50,000 in 1980 to more than a half of a million today – an 1100% increase.
- Drug arrests have more than tripled in the last 25 years, totaling more than 1.63 million arrests in 2010. More than four out of five of these arrests were for mere possession, and forty-six percent of these arrests (750,591) were for marijuana possession alone.
- Arrests and incarceration for drugs – even for first time, low-level violations – can result in debilitating collateral consequences for an individual and their family. A conviction for a drug law violation can result in the loss of employment, property, public housing, food stamp eligibility, financial aid for college, and the right to vote – even after serving time behind bars.
The war on drugs is the new Jim Crow:
- While African Americans comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population and 13 percent of drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and 59 percent of those convicted of drug law violations.
- Relative to population, African-Americans are 10.1 times more likely than whites to be sent to prison for drug offenses.
Cost of the Drug War
Cost of the drug war so far.