$500 Million Pledged for Mexico and the lost War on Drugs

Hidden within President Bush’s $46 billion dollar budget request is a $500 million dollar funding package for Mexico and the lost war on drugs. Members of Congress already weary of the costs of the Iraqi conflict are looking on in dismay at the $500 million dollar request as well, which they complain was negotiated in secret meetings between the White House and the Mexican government.

The United States already has the distinction of being a nation with more of its citizens incarcerated than any other industrialized nation and these funds would only exacerbate an already alarming trend. With 1 out of every 136 US citizens either awaiting trial or already serving their time in our prisons this points to a system that is broken and in need of repair.

As the crime rate in the US has been and continues to drop for the last ten years one must wonder if this is a prudent path to take with the courts current state of affairs. Far too many US citizens are serving mandatory minimum sentences under the current drug laws and even some judges are now refusing or a least questioning the usefulness of the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Currently our federal and state penitentiaries are costing American taxpayers over $60 billion dollars a year. Over 60% of those held are housed in state and city jails awaiting trial in a system that is housing over 2.2 million men and women.

The current US rate is 750 prisoners per 100,000 citizens which is several times higher than rates in Europe and is even higher than the rates in formerly repressive states like Russia or South Africa. Their has also been a 500% increase in incarceration which is also 7 times greater than in 1970 with a cost to the American taxpayer at some $60 billion dollars per year.

The drug offenders in US prisons and jails has increased 1100% since 1980, almost half a million of those incarcerated in federal and state prisons are there for a drug offense. African Americans constitute 37% of those arrested for drugs and 56% of the inmates in state prison systems, yet African Americans only compromise 14% of the USA’s drug users. Most if not all African American citizens serve as much time in federal prison for drug offenses (58.7 months) as their white counterparts serve for violent drug offenses.

The perceived racial overtones in the disparity over sentencing for Crack versus Powered Cocaine are a particularly disturbing element which merits more research. In the federal court system selling five hundred grams of powdered cocaine a defendant will receive a five year minimum mandatory sentence versus five grams of crack cocaine which will also yield a five year minimum mandatory sentence. The average sentence for a crack cocaine defendant is 122 months in 2006, or three years longer than the 85 month sentence for powder cocaine.

This along with the fact that inner city neighborhoods are targeted by local police departments places a disproportionate amount of young African Americans in the US prison system. African Americans now serve almost as much time 58.7 months in the prison system for drug offences as their white counterparts do for a violent offense 61.7 months. In the years between 1994 to 2003 African Americans who served time in US prisons increased by 62%, while white offenders saw an increase of only 17%.

Marijuana arrests increased from 1990 to 2005 by 113% and they accounted for 42.6% of the drug arrests in the 2005 calendar year. It is also worth noting that 79% of the arrests attributed to the 1990 period were for marijuana possession.

This at a time when the violent crime rate has decreased by almost 50% since 1993, assaults were down by 10%, reported rapes fell 8% and fondling and verbal threats fell 20%. Overall property crime rates fell 6% with a 9.7% decrease in burglaries all at a time when we are incarcerating more and more of our citizens.

The United States Congress needs to address and correct these minimum mandatory travesties against true justice and set the record straight. Also remember when your local politician trots out the War on Drugs or other crime initiative that all they are after is your vote.

They are very well aware of the crime statistics in the country and they know that overall crime is dropping. Now if they or a friend is a shareholder in the multitude of privatized prisons which are sprouting up all across the United States, then they don’t want your vote, they just want to reach into your pocket to increase the shareholders wealth.

I firmly believe in crime and punishments, if you can’t do the time don’t do the crime. But the laws of this nation should be impartial regardless of race or social stature or wealth. It is also blatantly unfair the way young African Americans are being treated by our judicial system and this should be addressed without delay.

Also as our current prison system is costing over $60 billion dollars a year do I want to send someone away for smoking pot? No

For the record I do not use illegal narcotics in any form and I also fill out forms and check the White box when asked about my race. However this so called war on drugs is not working and I do feel sorry for those whose lives have been destroyed just so a government official can further their career and fill their coffers.

Furthermore if the United States is so worried about drugs why has Opium production in Afghanistan reached all time highs since we invaded that country? This country is responsible for over 90% of the heroin found in the known world. There was a 26% increase in production in 2005 alone.

This recent request by Mr. Bush is nothing more than a policy ploy being used to garner votes for his defense spending bill which has now been sent to our congressional leaders.

It is worth noting that a recent substance abuse program in California came to the conclusion that for every dollar spent on treatment resulted in a savings of seven dollars in reduced crime. This along with a recent RAND analysis where spending One Million to expand the mandatory use of sentencing guidelines would reduce drug consumption by 13 kilograms, spending the same amount on treatment would reduce consumption by 100 kilograms.

How are the tax dollars of the American taxpayer being spent, are they being used to feed the private and government prisons with fresh meat? Should the color of ones skin garner someone a more severe sentence than another American? Is treatment a better course of action in some instances and should the minimum sentencing guidelines be abolished?

Do you Care? I Hope you do

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

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