SOWK 534 Midterm
October 6, 2012
The United States has declared war on drugs. This is a war that has been fought on many levels and in many places. The Whitehouse released statistics that state, “anywhere from 52 percent (Washington, DC) to 80 percent or more (Chicago and Sacramento) of male arrestees tested positive for the presence of at least one drug at the time of their arrest” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/criminal-justice-reform). This information gives some insight into the pervasiveness of the presenting problem. Drug addiction is an epidemic among those being arrested. Incarceration has been the “big stick” of numerous administrations when it comes to fighting the drug war. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 enacted new federal laws governing how we deal with drugs in the country. These guidelines were the logical extension of other popular draconian measures from several states to include New York. Among the elements of the Act is mandatory sentencing. This tool has made the prosecution of non violent drug offenders the “third rail” of our modern society. There are few politicians that want to be seen as going easy on crime, but this hyper incarceration in America has led us to lead the world in incarcerated individuals. This antiquated idea of how the law looks at addiction and the people who experience it has led to an untenable situation in our country. Traditionally there has always been a punitive approach to treatment of addiction. Morality laws were pervasive in early America. The three strike laws have served to “feed the beast” in regards to filling prisons on the state and federal level. The prison population in this country has exploded. According to the Department of Justice in 2010 there were over 1.6 million people incarcerated in the U.S. (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=11). In this exploration we will look at how the phenomenon of mandatory sentencing and other components of the Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988 have impacted America economically and socially. B.
The United States has a history of using laws to enact social control. The first notion of America using laws to control certain populations is in 1875. It was in this year that the United States passed its first drug law. It was in San Francisco, it was called the anti-opium den ordinance of 1875 (Reinerman, 157). This was a thinly veiled measure to disenfranchise Chinese immigrants brought to America to labor on the railroad system and gold mines of the west. The law was set to not allow the labor force to gain power to negotiate better wages and working conditions. If we look even further there are other examples of this; the Temperance movement was an attempt at Protestants to marginalize the growing Catholic population in many urban centers during the industrialization of America. Gusfield states that, “temperance itself suggests a solution consonant with the dominance of the group and the concern with injustice and suffering. If the lower classes and the immigrants will acquire the habits and social codes of the native middle classes, their problems will be solved” (1955, 7). The recurring theme of economic suppression in these two examples speaks to the insidious nature of social engineering through social movements and more codified methods. A predecessor of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 were the Rockefeller Drug Laws enacted in New York State and it had an immediate and sweeping effect on the population of New York. “In the period between 1974 and 2002, the NY State prison population rose by almost 500%” (Drucker, 2002). This law was developed to deal with the rise in drug use and crimes among New Yorkers. Fear of crime and pervasiveness of racism in it’s enforcement has come together in the form of policy for New York State and the nation. There are many implications of “locking up” this many fathers,...