War on Drugs in the United States


The United States American government has spent huge amounts of money in struggling to eradicate drugs from the nation and yet drugs such as heroin, cocaine among other illegal drugs are becoming cheaper and cheaper, and easier to obtain than ever before. A very large number of people are in jail for drug charges. This paper is going to look at the implications of the war on drugs on the criminal justice system, in the past, present, and future.

Past History

According to Kennedy (2003), in the course of the 1920s, the United States of America government set up a major war against drugs. The test of nation ban was well carried out in the course of this time, and the initially determined endeavor to carry out the enforcement of the Harrison Act which was the initial anti-narcotics law (Kennedy, 2003). It is revealed that the war on drugs carried out in the 1920s was less punitive and not on the basis of color in comparison with the recent war on drugs.


In comparison with the present-day wars on drugs, those initial efforts carried out in the 1920s drug abuse control concerned less imprisonment period for fewer people. The victims were basically white; the people of color were, in relative terms, under-represented among those people who were taken to jail for offenses linked to narcotics and violations stemming from the prohibition in the course of the twenties. However, according to Kennedy (2003), as such statistics give a suggestion that there is a role played by race in regards to giving shape to the way punitive wars on drugs are prosecuted, these statistics do not give out enough information about the way that influence works.

Present Circumstances

There is the existence of self-perpetuating, recurring quality of the way people of color are treated in the United States of American criminal justice system. The major part of the discrimination springs from the way the makers of the decisions in the United States of America criminal justice system perceive that much of the crimes are made by people from the minority groups and many of the people of the minority groups commit crimes. Even if it is not empirically true, such perceptions bring about an unbalanced share of law enforcement concern to be centered on the minority groups and this eventually brings about more arrests of people of color. Unbalanced arrests stimulate judicial decisions as well as prosecutorial decisions which, in an unbalanced way, bring effects to the minority groups and consequently this brings about disparities on the basis of race in incarceration (Tonry, 1996).

Jailed Population

Among people who use drugs, Blacks only form 13 percent of this group of people. However, out of these users of drugs, 55 percent of those arrested are blacks and they still form 74 percent of those that are taken to prison (Human Rights Watch Report, May 2000).

On a nationwide basis, Latinos form 50 percent of those people who are arrested for offenses related to marijuana. The Native Americans form almost 75 percent of the people prosecuted for criminal offenses.

Those who were convicted of federal powder cocaine offenses constituted 30 percent black people, the whites formed 26 percent, and the Latino formed 43 percent (Human Rights Watch Report, May 2000).

Future Prediction

According to the Drug Policy network, (2001), the rich communities that are dominated by white people have for a long time recognized that the drug war does not necessarily require incarceration. Other options such as education on drugs as well as drug treatment are foundations of efforts by white people to bring down the level of drug abuse within their locality. But on the other hand, when it is established that there are drugs in the societies of people of color, the policies that have been set up facilitate the setting up of jail, and yet they could set up the amenities for treatment.

If the government of the United States of America is having a genuine commitment to do away with discrimination on the basis of race within the criminal justice system and has to fulfill the responsibility it has, it must take an initiative to bring to an end racial profiling, set up obligatory minimum drug sentences and civil disabilities for crime convictions (Jonathan, 1997). The decision-makers in the criminal justice system like the prosecutors, the police, among others should take responsibility for the decisions they make that are discretionary. More so, there must be well seen acknowledging by the government that there is actually a failure in the war on drugs and the policy set in regard to this has not been able to succeed and the government should agree that this policy is bringing more harm to people than doing any good to them and especially the people who are of color.


The war on drugs has not been won. This war has brought several negative implications especially to people who come from minority groups. This failure to win this war has basically stemmed from a lack of appropriate policies to deal with this problem. The policies put in place in regard to the war against drugs bring in the wrong notion. This notion is that the minority groups are more prone to the harm brought in by the drugs and the white people can handle their drugs in a better way. Such policies should be abolished and new policies put in place. This will facilitate the fight against drugs on a balanced ground since the problems associated with this war have resulted in the fight against drugs being unbalanced.


Anonymous, (2010). What is wrong with the war on drugs? Web.

Drug Policy network, (2001). Race, the war on drugs and the United States Criminal Justice System. Web.

Human Rights Watch Report (May 2000). Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, Vol. 12, No. 2 (G).

Jonathan P. C., et al. (1997). Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences: Throwing Away the Key or the Taxpayer’s Money, Rand, Santa Monica, p. xxiv.

Kennedy E. J., (2003). Drug wars in Black and White. Web.

Tonry M. H., (1996). Malign Neglect: Race, Crime, and Punishment in America. Oxford University Press US. ISBN: 0195104692, 9780195104691.

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