I just received an email from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). LEAP is an organization consisting of thousands of law enforcement officers and other concerned citizens, all of them dedicated to taking the violence out of the illicit drug trade. Based on the following facts and links, I continue to agree with LEAP that the drug laws of the United States amount to prohibition and that they are insanely destructive.
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day and the bonds that bring people together, let us not forget the policies that tear them apart. The drug warriors have taken millions of nonviolent drug offender parents from their families for crimes no more morally offensive than those of the rum runners who managed to make ends meet during the last prohibition.
Between 1986 and 1999, the incarceration rate for women grew by 888%! From 1986 to 1996, the number of women in federal prison for drug “crimes” increased tenfold, from 2,400 to 24,000, and the number continues to increase. Many leave children behind. Today, more than 2.7 million American children have lost a parent to a prison sentence, and two thirds of those parents are nonviolent offenders.
In the name of the children, in the name of the family, the prohibitionists destroy both.
LEAP recently addressed the issue of legalization in YouTube’s annual online town hall meeting with President Obama. Although our question to the president received the highest number of votes among the video entries, it was not aired during the forum, leaving many wondering why the number one question would be passed over in favor of less pressing issues like favorite late night snacks or tennis. While the president may not be comfortable following up on last year’s YouTube question from LEAP, we will keep pushing decision makers to address this issue no matter how many times they avoid it or talk around it, because children of nonviolent drug offenders are getting left behind.
In 1980, one out of every 125 children had a parent behind bars. By 2008, that number had grown to 1 in every 28. Think of the average kindergarten class. Think of the child whose parent is missing. Connect the dots to the rest of that child’s life.
LEAP maintains an excellent website filled with resources for anyone who wants to take the violence out of the use of drugs. From the “About” page of LEAP we learn more of facts and figures demonstrating that the “war on drugs” is a failure:
For four decades the US has fueled its policy of a “war on drugs” with over a trillion tax dollars and increasingly punitive policies. More than 39 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses have been made. The incarcerated population quadrupled over a 20-year period, making building prisons the nation’s fastest growing industry. More than 2.3 million US citizens are currently in prison or jail, far more per capita than any country in the world. The US has 4.6 percent of the population of the world but 22.5 percent of the world’s prisoners. Each year this war costs the US another 70 billion dollars. Despite all the lives destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and much easier to access than they were at the beginning of the war on drugs, 40 years ago. Meanwhile, people continue dying on the streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer, more powerful, better armed.