New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration Analysis

997 Words 4 Pages
As of 2016, there are 7.4 billion people on the planet. Of that 7.4 billion, the United States accounts for roughly 321 million people. Would it surprise you, that although the U.S is home to less than 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the world’s overall incarcerated population? Our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Michelle Alexander writes in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, that the impact of the drug war has been astounding. In the last few decades, the U.S. population of incarcerated citizens exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for a majority of the increase. The War on Drugs functions more realistically as …show more content…
One of the many ways that our criminal justice system demonstrably targets minority groups can be seen in the way we prosecute cocaine drug offenders. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act was passed by Congress in 1986, in response to the increased usage of cocaine around the nation. However, this act mandated criminal penalties for the possession of crack cocaine that were much more severe than that of powder cocaine. The possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine yields a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first offense; yet it takes merely 28 grams of crack cocaine to prompt the same sentence (Riley). This is notable because when this act was established, African Americans were more likely to possess crack cocaine, whereas powder cocaine offenders were more commonly white (Riley). Despite recent federal reforms of crack sentencing laws, much higher penalties still exist for possession and sale of crack, even though they are almost chemically identical. Because of the obvious disparities between the penalties for the different forms of cocaine, many believe that the mass incarceration of people of color in this country —particularly African American youth— is a blatant way of systematically controlling minority groups; much like the Jim Crow laws were until the …show more content…
According to Eugene Jarecki, "Rates of addiction remain unchanged, overdose deaths are at an all-time high, and drugs cost less than ever before” (Branson). In fact, we spend more money trying to incarcerate drug abusers than we do on trying to rehabilitate them. The American Public Health Association, states that, “While [over the years] drug war budgets have generally increased, effective treatment programs are chronically underresourced.” Furthermore, polling indicates that more and more people across the nation have come to the conclusion that the war on drugs has failed and agree that we need change, as shown in research done by the Global Commission on Drug Policy (Branson). Instead of treating this as a criminal issue, we should follow the example of countries like Portugal and Uruguay, who have been successful in their approach to treating drug-use and addiction as a health problem. By actually treating people as opposed to criminalizing them, we could decrease government spending on prisons and instead use the resources for

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