The War on Drugs takes in unimaginable sums of money and at the same time it costs taxpayers in the range of $50 billion annually when state and federal agencies are taken into account. Does that make sense? Perhaps it does, if we consider the independent variables. The Drug War money goes into the system in the form of forfeitures of property and cash, fines, and court costs charged to defendants. Money from forfeitures is then split among participating agencies and funds the pursuit of more Drug War prosecutions and the salaries and expenses of agency workers. This sounds like a never-ending vicious circle.
Drug War arrests and prosecutions also fund the prison system. The US incarcerates more of its population than any country in the world. We like to lock people up here, and often for any reason that we can find or create. We also hand out the lengthiest sentences in the world, and the longest tend to be for drug prosecutions; not violent crime. According to studies conducted by the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London, in 2007 there were 2.3 million people incarcerated in the US, and I have little doubt that the figure has since increased. China came in second with 1.6 million imprisoned.
I'm not going to fill your mind with a lot of statistics here, but will include links to websites at the end of this post if additional information is desired. I sometimes read through press releases on US Attorney's Office websites for various districts just to look at prosecution and sentencing trends, and what I've read lately is scary. It's hard for me to imagine anyone with a marijuana offense doing 20+ years in prison, but it is happening. Texas is a place that I'll never enter again. How can there be so much pot available at such great prices and so many prosecutions resulting in decades in a prison in the same place? This makes little sense to me.
South Texas has always had plenty of smuggling operations due to its geographical proximity to Mexico. If you read through press releases in the past year and half you will see sentences so long that it's mind-boggling – many are life in prison. They also work hard for as long as it takes to extradite the indicted from Mexico when necessary. In one recent case they worked on the extradition for eight years! Try to imagine the costs involved in that.
When forfeitures and prison costs are taken into account, the taxpayers are still spending close to $50 billion a year to prosecute and incarcerate drug users, drug dealers, and drug traffickers. What this is saying is that beyond building prisons, jails, and new courthouses, and paying millions of workers, they are still in the hole by $50 billion a year on the average. If this were a business it would have been dissolved long ago. We have a large percentage of our population that is so poor they have no health care and only eat because they receive food stamps. I believe the most recent figure is 31.5 million Americans receiving food stamps.
It is far past time to end the failed US War on Drugs. I get it and much of the population gets it, including many in law enforcement, so why don't our politicians get it?
Links to check out the statistics:
LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Drug War Clock
Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
Bureau of Justice Statistics
November Coalition – Working to End Drug War Injustice
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)
Stop voting for politicians that don't get it!