From the August 2000 Idaho Observer:
War on drugs or war on the American people?
Over the last several years, the federal government has declared wars on poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, physical and sexual abuse, sex and violence on TV, teen pregnancy and drugs. To date, though billions of tax dollars have been thrown into these wars, we have lost them like we lost in Viet Nam -- and for many of the same reasons. The federal government uses our money to fight battles it has never intended to win.
After reading the following, you will agree that your government is not waging a war on drugs. The war is on the freedom of the American people.
By The November Coalition
1. The United States has a larger percentage of its population in prison than any country on Earth. Over 2 million human beings languish behind bars. Well over sixty percent of federal prisoners, and a significant fraction of state and local prisoners, are non-violent drug offenders, mostly first time offenders. Due to the War on Drugs, we have become the world's leading jailer. One out of 35 Americans is under the control of the Criminal Justice System. If present incarceration rates hold steady, one out of 20 Americans, one out of 11 men, and one out of four black men in this country today can expect to spend some part of their life in prison.
2. One out of three young African American (ages 18 to 35) men in the United States are in prison or on some form of supervised release. The Drug War is clearly a race war. Our country has more African American men in prison than in college. We call ourselves the Land of the Free, yet we have a four times higher percentage of Black men in prison than South Africa at the height of apartheid, an official national policy of institutionalized racism.
3. One out of nine school-age children has one or both parents in prison. At the present exponential increase in incarceration, this number will be one out of four alarmingly soon. We are breeding an entire generation of embittered and disenfranchised prison orphans. We are losing an entire generation of young people.
4. The average sentence for a first time, non-violent drug offender is longer than the average sentence for rape, child molestation, bank robbery or manslaughter. As our prisons rapidly fill to bursting, rapists and murderers are being given early release to make room for no parole drug offenders. While law enforcement continues to go after relatively easy drug violation arrests, every major city in this country has a record number of unsolved homicides.
5. Every year, 8,000 to 14,000 people die from illegal drugs in this country. Every year, over 500,000 people die from legal drugs (Tobacco, liquor and prescriptions). This is roughly a 50-to-one ratio. Alcohol alone is involved in seven times more violent crimes than all illegal substances combined. Yet our government continues to hugely subsidize alcohol and tobacco, while demonizing those who would exercise a different choice.
6. It's been empirically shown that education and treatment is seven times more cost effective than arrest and incarceration for substance addiction, yet we continue to spend more tax dollars on prisons than treatment. In this 'Land of Liberty', we spend more money on prisons than on schools.
We are clearly addicted to mass punishment of consensual 'crimes' on a staggering scale. The sheer magnitude of all the human misery generated in our government's war on it's own people is truly terrifying.
7. Federal prosecutors reportedly have a 98 percent conviction rate, and federal appellate courts reject 98 percent of appeals. The American Bar Association says this number should be closer to 60-70 percent. Does this mean that over 30 percent of those jailed are technically or literally innocent (Do we really trust our government to do anything with 98 percent efficiency?)? The nearly limitless and clearly unconstitutional powers that have been handed to the U.S. Attorneys by Congress is mind blowing in the extreme. The Bill of Rights is rapidly becoming a fond memory.
8. If the federal government were to have its way, you can be given the death penalty for 'trafficking' in two ounces of marijuana. Former 'Drug Czar' William Bennett (author of 'The Book of Virtues'!) has advocated the public beheading of convicted drug offenders. LA Police Chief Daryl Gates has publicly stated that casual drug users should be taken from the court room and summarily executed. We are rapidly approaching a totalitarian police state, where absolute power flows directly from wealth, and any deviation from the officially mandated status quo can mean incarceration, torture or even death.
9. The prohibition of alcohol in the early part of this century financed the birth of the present day criminal underground. The prohibition of drugs has given incredible power to the inner city street gangs, and put hundreds of millions of dollars into their hands. A generation ago, they fought with knives and brass knuckles. Now they have submachine guns and high explosives. We have turned our cities into war zones.
10. Because drug crimes are consensual, with no citizens filing charges, the government has had to get very creative to motivate suspects to testify against each other in trial. Known criminals are routinely paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and offered virtual immunity, luxurious perks, and drastically reduced sentences for their information and testimony. Barter for perjury is rampant. Our prisons are full to bursting with innocent victims. More and more, federal prosecutors are acquiring almost unlimited powers in the courtroom. They set sentences; they dictate trial protocol; they have turned purchased betrayal of family and friends into a high art form. Judges in federal trials are fast becoming mere automatons.
11. I have reviewed and studied literally hundreds of cases in preparation for this project, and I keep seeing the same alarming trend. The drug kingpins and professional criminals continually plea-bargain their way to freedom, or leave the country with all their wealth, while the low level offenders and innocent patsies, with no information to trade for leniency, and no resources for an adequate defense, are sentenced to insanely long terms. We are warring on the afflicted and the vulnerable.
12. In 30 years of The War On Drugs, our government hasn't managed to accomplish even a small reduction in drug dealing and abuse, yet we have spent almost a trillion dollars. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS! That is a huge fraction of the total national debt. All we've done is fill up our prisons at a terrifying rate, and pay homage to meaningless, mean-spirited rhetoric, like Zero Tolerance and Just Say No and Tough on Crime. By current estimates, we need to build a complete new federal prison every two weeks just to keep up with the demand. At the present exponential rate of incarceration, we will have half of our population in prison within 50 years. Is this how we want to greet the new millennium? We will rip this nation to pieces.
13. It has been estimated that almost 10 percent of international trade is in profits from illicit substances. Some third world countries count narco-dollars as a significant fraction of their gross national product. While the drug war destroys countless lives among the working and peasant classes, the privileged elite grows wealthy beyond imagining. There is a strong economic incentive to keep the war going ad infinitum. While our elected officials pay lip service to a drug free America, the CIA is routinely involved with massive international drug-trafficking to finance its covert operations.
14. Don't think for a minute that you and your family are immune, because we don't do drugs. As the criminal justice juggernaut swells out of control, innocent until proven guilty has lost all meaning. You can be sucked into the prison-industrial complex on little more than a whim, and spend a lifetime trying to find relief. An evening spent with the wrong crowd; a moment of rebellion or bad judgment, and your sons and daughters will fall victim. It has become insanely easy to prove conspiracy based on mere association and bartered for hearsay. Drugs are everywhere, from the inner city ghettos to the gated estates of the privileged classes. One mistake, one moment of unfortunate coincidence, and your loved ones will be gone, locked up for 10 years to life. One day soon, it will happen to you, or your family, or your friends; make no mistake. This madness must stop now.
The above article by the November Coalition was exhaustively researched and footnoted. References and other resources regarding the federal war on the American people are available by contacting the November Coaltion at: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.november.org or by calling: (509) 684-1550.
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