Thursday, February 2, 2012

The War on Drugs

            What would our prisons and jails look like if programs such as the “War on Drugs” did not exist? There is no doubt in my mind we would not be seeing the astronomical numbers of people being incarcerated as we see today. We are the undisputed world champions at locking up people and simply throwing away the key. We would also save billions of dollars a year for other programs if the war on drugs was to end or slow down. With so many problems with the war on drugs, why is it still a top priority?
Richard Nixon was the first to coin the phrase “War on Drugs,” and the term fits the predicament we are in In 2007, there were over 1.8 million drug related arrests in the U.S. ( The number of drug related arrests has gone up each year, but it is hard to tell if the drug problem is getting worse or legislation is just getting much harsher. Either way, it seems as though the War on Drugs has no ending in sight and that we are not winning this war. Perhaps more education and awareness campaigns about the ill effects of drugs need to be implemented. Parents also need to take part in this “war” by educating their children on drugs and doing whatever they can to try to prevent their children from using drugs.
Would you be surprised to know that 21% of state and 55% of federal prisoners were non-violent drug offenders in 2004 ( Some sources listed the approximate cost of housing all of these drug offenders in prison per year to be around at a staggering $5 billion. However, if we were to treat every drug offender through rehabilitation, the cost would be much higher, but the effectiveness would probably also be much higher. It is proven that prison is not an effective deterrent for drug offenders, considering, many are addicted to the drug of choice or their entire income comes from the distribution of the particular substance(s). In my opinion, the only drug offenders that deserve to be in prison are those found to be distributing large amounts of drugs and those that have done other crimes while under the influence of drugs.         
Incarceration is not helping the problem; it is just diverting it to another sector of the criminal justice system. Rehabilitation is both costly and very hard to get into. Most drug courts will only accept those offenders that have the best chance of success. However, if we never give some a chance then how will they ever succeed in kicking their drug habit? Once those who were incarcerated get out of prison they are once again put in close proximity to those who they used to deal and use drugs with and then the problem just continues instead of stopping. We need to get drug offenders to WANT to quit instead of just punishing them and hoping prison will deter future drug use and/or dealing, which has proven to not work.
             The War on Drugs is severely bogging down the criminal justice system and there are no signs of it slowing. I am not for the legalization of any of the illegal drugs but the way we are handling the drug problem is not working and we need to reconsider the approach we are currently using. The War on Drugs has proven time and time again not to work, it is in fact creating a great strain on the criminal justice system as a whole and a great strain on the economy. Politicians and policy makers need to take a second look at drug policy, especially dealing with small amounts of marijuana, and really think if it is all of this worth it considering it is not working.


  1. Very nice posting. I also support reforming many of the drug laws and the sentencing that comes with them. I guess I am curious what other types of punishment/rehabilitation are viable alternatives to incarceration in this day and age. Drug courts and rehabilitation are great, but as you mention, they are quite expensive. If money were no object, this is clearly the best alternative. As far as education the youth, we have seen program after program fail. I can remember when I was in grade school(here in Normal), my DARE officer was arrested and found guilty of being under the influence of cocaine and possession. DARE was and continues to be a huge failure, but we still support the program, knowing it doesn't work. It does make parents and educators feel good that they are making the attempt. We owe it to our youth to come up with a better system and you are absolutely correct that it must begin with strong parental influence.

  2. I also agree that many of the sentencing rules for drugs need to be changed. I believe that if someone in the criminal justice system has an idea on how to make the system better as a whole, it should be tested. Many people keep saying that rehabilitation costs too much time and money, but that would also take thousands of prisoners out of normal prison and put them somewhere where they will actually receive help. While it may cost a lot of time, money and effort at first, it may pay off in the end. The only way to see if it will is to try it, and I think that doing so could benefit the War on Drugs as a whole. I like that you posted on this topic because drug issues are becoming more and more prevalent as the years go on and something definitely needs to be done about it.

  3. This is a good topic for discussion. I don't think the majority of American's support the "war on drugs," but yet we spend crazy amounts of money on it. I think it is filling up the prisons and system with people that don't really need to be there. I believe this is an example of the people in power imposing their beliefs on the rest of the country. I do not believe that all drugs should be legal but what we are doing now is obviously not working. I went to the federal prison in Pekin on a field trip and they told us that at any given time up to as much as 85 percent of their prisoner's were there on drug related charges. If this is true for the rest of the country just imagine how much could be saved and how much more efficient the system could be if we just tweaked it.

  4. I agree with you that the war on drugs should not be a top priority, especially when there are such worse crimes that are violent and not victimless, why are there so many people in prisons in there for drug charges? I agree with your statement that we are not winning the war on drugs. I believe there is never an end in sight for this “war,” because people are always going to continue using drugs, and if anything it will just get worse as legislation will get fed up and take more drastic measures to try to control it.
    I also agree that incarceration is not helping the problem. You are right that drug addicts need rehabilitation, not to be locked up and then let back out just to go back to their old ways.. it is a vicious cycle. Going to jail or prison may even make these “offenders” want to do drugs even more to help deal with the stress of incarceration, fines, and court. Locking people up for drugs is not the appropriate response, drug addiction is a disease, and needs to be treated as such.