The New Jim Crow

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Victor Ferreira
The New Jim Crow
Chapter 2

Incarceration rates in the United States have exploded due to the convictions for drug offenses. Today there are half a million in prison or jail due to a drug offense, while in 1980 there were only 41,100. They have tripled since 1980. The war on drugs has contributed the most to the systematic mass incarceration of people of color, most of them African-Americans. The drug war is aimed to catch the big-time dealers, but the majority of the people arrested are not charged with serious offenses, and most of the people who are in prison today for drug arrests, have no history of violence or selling activity. The war on drugs is also aimed to catch dangerous drugs, however nearly 80 percent of the drug arrests in the 90s where for marijuana possession. The Drug War has undermined all constitutionally protected civil liberties. The court has, in recent years, permitted police to obtain search warrants based on anonymous informant's tips. They have also allowed helicopters to surveillance homes without a warrant, and the forfeiture of cash and homes based on unproven allegations of illegal drug activity. The Supreme Court have crafted legal rules that allow law enforcement to arrest virtually anyone. In 1968, the Supreme Court modified the understanding, that if an officer believes that someone is dangerous or engaging in criminal activity, that he should conduct a limited search to find weapons that might be used against him. Police now have basically the right to stop and search just about anybody that is walking down the street for drugs, and because common sense indicates that hardly anyone nowadays will say no when police asks to search. Police officers also use pretext stops as an excuse to search for drugs. It allowed police to use minor traffic violations as a pretext for baseless drug investigations and single anyone for investigation without any evidence of illegal drug activity. The truth, however, is that most people who are stopped and searched in the War on Drugs are perfectly innocent of any crime. Law Enforcements are trained to use pretextual traffic stops and consent searches for drug interdiction. This federally- run general searched program, that trained over 25,000 officers in 48 states, targeted people without any cause for suspicion, especially people of low standards. The interesting thing is that, 95 percent of these traffic stops yield no illegal drugs. Because drug-law enforcement wasn't a priority, and with way more serious crimes happening, the law enforcement agencies were given huge cash grants to make drug-law enforcement a priority. The Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistant Program offered millions of dollars in federal aid to every agency who was willing to wage the war. Eventually SWAT teams were formed and are now used for narcotics warrants with forced, and unannounced entry into a person's house. In most drug raids conducted, instead of police arresting these people, the SWAT teams blast into people's houses in the middle of the night, throwing grenades and pointing guns at children. A lot of innocent people are killed in the middle of these raids. Even with all the cash grants, military equipment and training, the Reagan administration granted state and local law enforcement agencies to keep for their own use, the majority of the cash and assets they seize when waging the drug war. In 1984, Congress allowed state and local police agencies to retain up to 80 percent of the assets' value. This increased the budget of police departments dramatically, who simply just took the cash, cars, and homes of people who were suspected of drug use or sales. Thousands of innocent people every year go to jail without ever talking to a lawyer. Thousands of people are swept into the criminal justice system every year pursuant to the drug war without much regard for their guilt or innocent. Many innocent drug defendants convict themselves...
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