Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

The Sentencing Project Tackles the War on Drugs

Posted by Maggie on September 20, 2007

Thanks to Sentencing Law & Policy for posting the Sentencing Project’s new report on the War on Drugs.

I’ll bullet point conclusions of the full paper.

  • TWOD has diverted law enforcement resources away from other crime problems. (In Florida they even found that for every drug arrest, there was an increase in serious crime.)
  • Asset forfeiture threatens civil liberties and wastes law enforcement.  (80% of assets in one study didn’t lead to a conviction.)
  • Drug convictions account for a huge portion of inmates in federal, state, and local jails and prisons.
  • Most convicted of federal drug crimes aren’t actually high-level dealers even though that’s who the laws are supposed to target.
  • Most convicted of state drug crimes who are imprisoned have a minor criminal history that should make them eligible for diversion.
  • A larger portion of women in prison than men are there for drugs.  This prohibits them from getting welfare to support their children after release.
  • The number of prisoners convicted of drug-related crime has increased, but the number of prisoners treated for drugs has decreased.
  • Putting money into treatment programs instead of mandatory sentencing would have a dramatic impact on drug use.
  • Blacks are unfairly targeted by drug laws.  They make up 14% of drug users but they are 56% of drug convictions in state prison.

Their recommendations are unsurprising.  Do away with mandatory minimums.  Re-allocate funding away from enforcement programs to treatment and preventive programs.  Address the crack/powder disparity.  Focus on helping communities. 

As usual, the Sentencing Project does a great, thorough job.

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