Pubdate: Mon, 19 Aug 2013
Source: Times-Tribune, The (Scranton PA)
Copyright: 2013 Miami Herald
Author: Leonard Pitts Jr.


It's been a war on justice, an assault on equal protection under the 
law. And a war on families, removing millions of fathers from 
millions of homes. And a war on money, spilling it like water.

And a war on people of color, targeting them with drone-strike efficiency.

We never call it any of those things, though all of them fit. No, we 
call it the War on Drugs.

It is a 42-year, trillion-dollar disaster that has done absolutely 
nothing to stem the inexhaustible supply of and insatiable demand for 
illegal narcotics. In the process, it has rendered this "land of the 
free" the biggest jailer on Earth.

Last Monday, we got a coincidental confluence of headlines that left 
me wondering, albeit, fleetingly: Did the War on Drugs just end?

Well, no. Let's not get carried away. But two of the biggest guns 
just went silent.

Gun 1: In a speech before an American Bar Association conference in 
San Francisco, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal 
prosecutors will no longer charge nonviolent, lowlevel drug offenders 
with offenses that fall under mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

Gun 2: A federal judge ruled New York City's stop-and-frisk policy 
unconstitutional. The tactic, more in line with some communist 
backwater than with a nation that explicitly guarantees freedom from 
random search and seizure, empowered cops t o search anyone t hey 
deemed suspicious, no probable cause necessary. Unsurprisingly, 84 
percent of those stopped were black or Hispanic, according to the 
Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil rights group, which says 
illegal drugs or weapons were found in less than 2 percent of the searches.

Michelle Alexander wrote the book on the drug war - literally.

"The New Jim Crow" documents in painful, painstaking detail how 
policies like these have been directed disproportionately against 
communities of color with devastating effect.

She told me via email that the headlines leave her "cautiously 
optimistic" that they reflect an emerging national consensus that 
"war on certain communities defined by race and class has proved to 
be both immoral and irrational, wasting billions of dollars and 
countless lives."

But, she warned, "tinkering with the incarceration machine" is not 
enough. She'd like to see the resources that have been wasted in this 
"war" redirected to help communities it decimated.

"We've spent more than a trillion dollars destroying those 
communities in the War on Drugs; we can spend at least that much 
helping them to recover. We must build a movement for education, not 
incarceration; jobs, not jails. ... Perhaps we will finally reverse 
the psychology that brought us to this point and learn to care about 
poor people of all colors, rather than simply viewing them as the problem."

Maybe we're ready to stop using criminal justice tools to solve a 
public health problem. Maybe we're ready to end this "War." It's past 
time. Our stubborn insistence on these foolish, unworkable policies 
has left families bereft, communities devastated, cops and bystanders 
dead, money wasted, distrust legitimized and justice betrayed.

We call it a War on Drugs. Truth is, drugs are about the only thing 
it hasn't hurt.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom