June 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs" — a war that has cost roughly a trillion dollars, has produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in the United States, and has contributed to making America the world's largest incarcerator.
The war on drugs has sent millions of people to prison for low-level offenses, and seriously eroded our civil liberties and civil rights while costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year, with nothing to show for it except our status as the world's largest incarcerator. There are 2.3 million people behind bars in this country — that is triple the amount of prisoners we had in 1987 — and 25 percent of those incarcerated are locked up for drug offenses. Taxpayers spend almost $70 billion a year on corrections and incarceration. A far more sensible way to deal with a public health problem like drug addiction is to provide treatment, which study after study has shown is more effective than incarceration.
Through advocacy and litigation, the ACLU has been seeking an end to this failed war on drugs and our costly addiction to incarceration for decades. Go here to read more about the ACLU’s work to end to excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society.
War on Drugs Blog Series
For the 40th Anniversary of the War on Drugs,the ACLU blogged throughout the month on the war's victims and what needs to be done to restore fairness and create effective policy.
On June 30, 2011, the United States Sentencing Commission heard the call of the ACLU and took another step toward creating fairness in federal sentencing.
The ACLU called on the United States Sentencing Commission to retroactively apply the new Fair Sentencing Act guidelines to individuals sentenced before the law was enacted.
States should not be subjecting poor people to forced drug testing.
Nowhere is the devastating impact of the “war on drugs” more apparent than in immigrant communities.
The "war on drugs" and "Broken Windows" policing have led to mass incarceration, widespread civil rights abuses, and severe and disproportionate consequences for America's youth, with few public safety benefits.
The federal government's failed "war on drugs" has had a devastating impact on Texas, but there is a glimmer of hope.
Because state officials are serving as the front-line troops in the "war on drugs," efforts to reform drug laws should focus on the states.
Addressing the public health problem of drug addiction should focus on rehabilitation, not incarceration.
The ACLU of Ohio issued a report on the effects of the war on drugs in Cleveland, which has seen more than its share of devastation from the “war on drugs.”
President Obama should commute the sentence of this grandmother, one of the countless victims of our government’s failed and costly war against its own people.
Driven by politics and fear, the war on drugs has been ineffective, fiscally irresponsible, racially biased, and just plain foolish.
Women with drug dependencies should not been prosecuted solely for becoming and remaining pregnant.
Across the country, people with felony — and sometimes even misdemeanor — convictions are subject to an array of disfranchisement laws that prevent them from voting, sometimes for life.
The "war on drugs" has had a devastating impact on women and families.
Having battled sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor for more than a decade, cancer patient Joseph Casias is used to fighting for his life. But now the War on Drugs has forced him to fight for his livelihood, too.
The “war on drugs” has lead to a ferocious assault on American’s privacy rights.
The ACLU's own Senior Legislative Counsel, Jesselyn McCurdy, testified at a hearing before the United States Sentencing Commission, urging commission to apply new, fairer sentencing guidelines retroactively.
June 2011 has the unfortunate distinction of marking the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs" — a war which has cost $1 trillion but produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs.