The War on Drugs, which took place during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, was an attempt to prohibit drug use and reduce illegal drug trade. The forefront leaders of this domestic war followed a “get-tough” policy and severely cracked down on drug offenders. IT was during this time that incarceration rates skyrocketed. The amount of US citizens incarcerated was unprecedented. Before the War on Crime occurred, America imprisoned around 100 to 200 people for every 100,000 citizens. Now, there are about 700 imprisoned people for every 100,000 citizens. Early on, prisons were bombarded with an influx of new inmates and were not able to handle it properly. Prisons became more harsh and less safe. 40 years later, overcrowding is still a serious issue that needs to be addressed fast. It contributes to a variety of issues such as psychological state, inmate and officer safety, financial aspects, and dyfunctionality in prisons. Recidivism rates are high because inmates have virtually no means of bettering themselves as overcrowding causes prison programs get cut or them being waitlisted. This paper will address these issues and also a few solutions on how to fix the growing problem America’s prisons face.
America’s period of the “War on Crime”, beginning in the early 1970s, brought many new policies to the American penal system. Most notably, the “War on Drugs”, brought to life by President Ronald Reagan, altered the country as a whole. What’s considered to be the most influential policy position of the criminal justice system just may have done more harm than good to American society and its norms. The new “get tough” attitude of government officials and workers consequently lead to crackdowns and a zero-tolerance stance on the drug world. America’s prisons soon began to face overcrowding, it became expensive to house inmates, correctional officers were being bombarded, and offenders were coming out into society even worse than they were when they were put in. The negative effects branching off from the War on Drugs is numerous. The government needs to start focusing on and considering the widespread social, economic, health, and political costs of its antidrug attitudes. Overall, the War on Drugs has had a remarkably negative effect on America’s prisons- namely overpopulation- becoming a major force in the lives of millions of people convicted in a drug case. This paper will focus on the effects of the drug war on America’s prisons and expand onto how that spills out into the rest of society, and suggestions of alterations to drug laws. The War on Drugs was a justification tactic of President Nixon who convinced the public that drug addiction was directly correlated to crime. Society ate that idea up and started to believe that anyone involved with drugs threatened the morality of the country and deserved incarceration (Dufton, 2012). Drug use had become rampant in the early 1960s and by 1971 the government formed the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Narcotics Treatment Administration, and the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. “Nixon characterized drug abuse as a “public enemy number one”…[and he] launched the first war on drugs, promising to give the issue higher priority and greater visibility than at any other time in the nation's history…Nixon increased the federal budget for drug treatment, education, research, and law enforcement tenfold during his term” (Johnson and Wanta, 1996, p. 184). The passing of the Controlled Substance Act in 1970 meant that the federal government could take a more active role in drug enforcement and drug abuse prevention. During Nixon’s term, there was only a minor increase in incarceration rates, so later in 1981 President Reagan sought to be tougher. As a conservative, Reagan’s main objective was to abandon liberal ideals and adopt conservative ones. While crime was down in