This week marks the 45th anniversary of the War on Drugs. Join us today in taking action to pass the RISE Act, one step in undoing the harm this war has caused on our communities.
In a statement to Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control on June 17th 1971, President Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one,” unleashing an attack on low income communities and communities of color.
The War on Drugs caused soaring arrest rates that deliberately targeted Black people. Nixon dramatically increased the size and presence of federal drug control agencies and pushed through measures like mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants. In the 1980s, during the height of the drug war hysteria, the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, while the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%.
One weapon used against our communities in this war has been automatically adding years to a prison term with a sentence “enhancements,” which Michelle Alexander called“weapons of individual and community destruction disguised as an expression of concern.” The RISE Act (SB 966 Mitchell) will repeal sentencing enhancements for prior convictions of possession for sales, sales, transportation, and similar acts.
After decades of the War on Drugs, it is clear that purely punitive approaches to crime are counterproductive. There is no evidence that enhanced sentences reduce drug availability or the number of people harmed by illicit drug use.
Field Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Member, Californians United for a Responsible Budget