DPA is committed to ending the drug war’s assault on families. Families throughout the United States have experienced the devastating consequences of failed drug war policies. One in 28 children in this country have a parent in prison, in large part due to the mass incarceration of people convicted of drug law violations. Even parents who avoid criminal punishment risk losing custody of their children, regardless of whether their drug use is problematic or not. Ineffective drug education and student drug testing have chipped away at the bonds of trust between parents and children. We support policies that treat drug use as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue, and we believe that families should have privacy and autonomy when dealing with drugs and addiction.
Personal sovereignty informs both the LGBT liberation and drug policy reform movements. Police surveillance and repression, along with stigma and moral panic, have been used to great effect against both LGBT individuals and people who use drugs.
With less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population, the United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – largely due to the war on drugs. Misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing requirements have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial and ethnic lines, blacks and Latinos are far more likely to be criminalized for drug law violations than whites.
Cameron Douglas, the son of famed actor Michael Douglas, was sentenced in 2010 to five years behind bars for participating in drug distribution. Despite his long-time problem with drug addiction, Cameron was not given any drug treatment in prison. While behind bars, Mr. Douglas relapsed on drugs. He was caught with very small amounts of opioids for personal use, and as a result, the judge added another four-and-a-half years to his sentence. This may be the longest-ever federal prison sentence imposed for the simple possession drugs for personal use behind bars.
Random drug testing of TANF recipients is costly, ineffective and hurts families.
Sen. David Vitter has recently introduced The Drug Free Families Act of 2011 (S. 83). This legislation would require all new applicants for TANF benefits, and all individuals currently receiving these benefits, to submit to drug testing. This proposed policy is a misguided and punitive waste of resources, and would place unnecessary financial burdens on taxpayers and state and federal budgets in order to enact an ineffective policy.
Children of the Drug War is a collection of original essays that investigates the impacts of the war on drugs on children, young people and their families.
The full book and each of its four sections are available for free download. It may also be read online.
The Global Commission, whose members include Kofi Annan and four former presidents, calls the drug war a failure and advocates a paradigm shift in global drug policy. The commission's bold recommendations include encouraging governments to experiment with legalization of drugs, particularly marijuana; putting an end to drug policies being driven by ideology and politics; and directing resources away from arresting and incarcerating so many people for drug law violations.
Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility is a collaborative effort between the Pew Charitable Trusts' Economic Mobility Project and its Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP). The report examines the impact of incarceration on the economic opportunity and mobility of former inmates and their families.
A Mother Speaks Out
On June 13, 1971, I became a mother when my first son was born. Five days later, President Nixon declared the "war on drugs." Little did I know then that this war would be waged against families like mine for the next four decades.