NAACP Issues Call to End the Drug War
July 29, 2011 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Earlier this week at its 102nd Annual Convention in Los Angeles, the NAACP issued a resolution entitled, “A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow.” While the text of the resolution will not be available until its national board approves it in October, a press statement following the vote criticized the drug war as discriminatory, costly, and counterproductive.
"These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP.
The statement went on to lament the drug war’s overreliance on punitive measures. "The only thing we've accomplished is becoming the world's largest incarcerator, sending people with mental health and addiction issues to prison, and creating a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960s," said Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program.
Approval of the resolution came just months after the NAACP launched its "Smart and Safe Campaign," which is aimed at avoiding "spending too much money sending people to prison, and not enough to make sure they never get there." The campaign’s priorities include eliminating disparities in drug laws, abolishing mandatory minimums, creating diversion programs for problematic drug users rather than incarcerating them, and expunging the criminal records of those who do not reoffend after a certain number of years.
In April, the NAACP accompanied the announcement of its new campaign with the release of its report entitled "Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate." It found that the rate of corrections spending outpaced that of education with state spending on prisons growing at six times higher education during the last 30 years. "As our misplaced investments in prisons increase, the bright futures of many of our young people decrease—which is why we must begin now to change course and invest in education over incarceration," the report stated.
It also noted the impact of unequal treatment under law primarily due to the drug war:
"Racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, and incarceration continue to challenge the integrity of our criminal justice system…While Americans of all races and ethnicities use illegal drugs at a rate proportionate to their total population representation, African Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of their white counterparts. Not only are African Americans and Latinos over-represented in the criminal justice system, but they are also more likely to experience lethal violence and victimization in that system."
Much of the NAACP’s criticisms echoed the findings of a recent report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which declared the global war on drugs a failure and recommended that it be replaced by decriminalization strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights. The report was issued last month which coincided with the 40th anniversary of when President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs.
Watch Ben Jealous and conservative leader Grover Norquist discuss the new NAACP's report "Misplaced Priorities" with PBS's Judy Woodroff on Newshour: