The War on Drugs is the driving federal force behind the discriminatory criminal justice system
Bor No Date (Becca member of the Chicago Teachers Union, a union delegate and a member of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators, the Socialist Workers Party (Ireland), People Before Profit, and the Derry Alliance for Choice “Race and Class in Obama’s U.S.” http://irishmarxistreview.net/index.php/imr/article/viewFile/150/151 , cayla_)
The sharpest edge of racism in the U.S. is mass incarceration and what Michelle Alexander termed ‘The New Jim Crow.’ Mass incarceration has been fuelled by the War on Drugs and the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 2.3 million people in prison today. At the time of the passing of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1986, which marked the beginning of the War on Drugs, the prison population was 300,000. Over the course of the last 30 years, there has been major militarisation of the police, expansion of the prison complexes, increase of surveillance and harassment of people engaged, and perceived to be engaged, in petty crime, increased sentences and no tolerance policies that led to greater imprisonment for lesser crimes, and massive racial profiling of Black and brown people. Out of this craze, came the three strikes policy in California that mandated maximum sentences for anyone on their third conviction, regardless of the crime; the Rockefeller Drug laws, which increased sentencing for crack cocaine often found in poor ghettos, but not the cocaine found in wealthy penthouses and elite college campuses; the expansion of the death penalty and incarceration under the AntiTerrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996; and the policy of Broken Windows policing, in which police officers arrest people for petty crimes, such as jumping a turnstile in the Subway or loitering on a corner6 , just to name a few. These policies have led to unprecedented levels of arrests and incarcerations. Multiple studies show that white Americans are more likely to use drugs, however Blacks are three times as likely to be arrested than whites, and 45 percent of convicted drug offenders are Black.7 The Stop and Frisk policy in New York and other cities used the pretext of the War on Drugs to drum up its support. 87 percent of the people stopped in these searches were Black or Latino, even though Blacks and Latinos only make up 52 percent of the population of New York. Additionally, police found nothing on 86 percent of the searches. This policy was only defeated after massive protests, organising and a class-action lawsuit against NYC forced the city to admit that Stop and Frisk was unconstitutional.8 In this atmosphere of criminalising Black people, it is no wonder that one in three Black Americans will go through the criminal justice system at some point in their lives. According to a New York Times study, there are more Black Americans in jail, on probation or parole than there were enslaved in 1850 before the Civil War. Today, the sharpest, most naked form of the criminal justice system is the brutal police violence, which has recently come to the fore. Between 2007-2012 police killed at least two black men a week. In fact, the number of police murders today is larger than the number of lynchings in the five years before the anti-lynching legislation was passed in 1922.9
The War on Drugs is especially incriminating in poor black communities
Alexander 10 (Michelle associate professor of law at Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and a writer “The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness” New York: The New Press. 2010 http://www.kropfpolisci.com/racial.justice.alexander.pdf , cayla_)
Racially biased police discretion is key to understanding how the overwhelming majority of people who get swept into the criminal justice system in the War on Drugs turn out to be black or brown, even though the police adamantly deny that they engage in racial profiling.In the drug war, police have discretion regarding whom to target (which individuals), as well as where to target (which neighborhoods or communities). As noted earlier, at least 10 percent of Americans violate drug laws every year, and people of all races engage in illegal drug activity at similar rates. With such an extraordinarily large population of offenders to choose from, decisions must be made regarding who should be targeted and where the drug war should be waged. From the outset, the drug war could have been waged primarily in overwhelmingly white suburbs or on college campuses. SWAT teams could have rappelled from helicopters in gated suburban communities and raided the homes of high school lacrosse players known for hosting coke and ecstasy parties after their games. The police could have seized televisions, furniture, and cash from fraternity houses based on an anonymous tip that a few joints or a stash of cocaine could be found hidden in someone's dresser drawer. Suburban homemakers could have been placed under surveillance and subjected to undercover operations designed to catch them violating laws regulating the use and sale of prescription "uppers." All of this could have happened as a matter of routine in white communities, but it did not. Instead, when police go looking for drugs, they look in the 'hood. Tactics that would be political suicide in an upscale white suburb are not even newsworthy in poor black and brown communities. So long as mass drug arrests are concentrated in impoverished urban areas, police chiefs have little reason to fear a political backlash, no matter how aggressive and warlike the efforts may be. And so long as the number of drug arrests increases or at least remains high, federal dollars continue to flow in and fill the department's coffers. As one former prosecutor put it, "It's a lot easier to go out to the 'hood, so to speak, and pick somebody than to put your resources in an undercover [operation in a] community where there are potentially politically powerful people."85 The hypersegregation of the black poor in ghetto communities has made the roundup easy. Confined to ghetto areas and lacking political power, the black poor are convenient targets. Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton's book, American Apartheid, documents how racially segregated ghettos were deliberately created by federal policy, not impersonal market forces or private housing choices.86 The enduring racial isolation of the ghetto poor has made them uniquely vulnerable in the War on Drugs. What happens to them does not directly affect—and is scarcely noticed by—the privileged beyond the ghetto's invisible walls. Thus it is here, in the poverty-stricken, racially segregated ghettos, where the War on Poverty has been abandoned and factories have disappeared, that the drug war has been waged with the greatest ferocity. SWAT teams are deployed here; buy-and-bust operations are concentrated here;drug raids of apartment buildings occur here; stop-and-frisk operations occur on the streets here.Black and brown youth are the primary targets. It is not uncommon for a young black teenager living in a ghetto community to be stopped, interrogated, and frisked numerous times in the course of a month, or even a single week, often by paramilitary units. Studies of racial profiling typically report the total number of people stopped and searched, disaggregated by race. These studies have led some policing experts to conclude that racial profiling is actually "worse" in white communities, because the racial disparities in stop and search rates are much greater there. What these studies do not reveal, however, is the frequency with which any given individual is likely to be stopped in specific, racially defined neighborhoods. The militarized nature of law enforcement in ghetto communities has inspired rap artists and black youth to refer to the police presence in black communities as "The Occupation." In these occupied territories, many black youth automatically "assume the position" when a patrol car pulls up, knowing full well that they will be detained and frisked no matter what. This dynamic often comes as a surprise to those who have spent little time in ghettos. Craig Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago, reports that his students frequently express shock and dismay when they venture into those communities for the first time and witness the distance between abstract legal principles and actual practice. One student reported, following her ridealong with Chicago police: "Each time we drove into a public housing project and stopped the car, every young black man in the area would almost reflexively place his hands up against the car and spread his legs to be searched. And the officers would search them. The officers would then get back in the car and stop in another project, and this would happen again. This repeated itself throughout the entire day. I couldn't believe it. This was nothing like we learned in law school. But it just seemed so normal—for the police and the young men." Numerous scholars (and many law enforcement officials) attempt to justify the concentration of drug law enforcement resources in ghetto communities on the grounds that it is easier for the police to combat illegal drug activity there.The theory is that black and Latino drug users are more likely than white users to obtain illegal drugs in public spaces that are visible to the police, and therefore it is more efficient and convenient for the police to concentrate their efforts on open-air drug markets in ghetto communities. Sociologists have been major proponents of this line of reasoning, pointing out that differential access to private space influences the likelihood that criminal behavior will be detected. Because poor people lack access to private space (often sharing small apartments with numerous family members or relatives), their criminal activity is more likely to be conducted outdoors. Concentrating law enforcement efforts in locations where drug activity will be more easily detected is viewed as a race-neutral organizational necessity. This argument is often buttressed by claims that most citizen complaints about illegal drug activity come from ghetto areas, and that the violence associated with the drug trade occurs in inner cities. These facts, drug war defenders claim, make the decision to wage the drug war almost exclusively in poor communities of color an easy and logical choice. This line of reasoning is weaker than it initially appears. Many law enforcement officials acknowledge that the demand for illegal drugs is so great—and the lack of alternative sources of income so few in ghetto communities—that "if you take one dealer off the street, he'll be replaced within an hour." Many also admit that a predictable consequence of breaking up one drug ring is a slew of violence as others fight for control of the previously stabilized market.87 These realities suggest—if the past two decades of endless war somehow did not—that the drug war is doomed to fail. They also call into question the legitimacy of "convenience" as an excuse for the mass imprisonment of black and brown men in ghetto communities. Even putting aside such concerns, though, recent research indicates that the basic assumptions upon which drug war defenses typically rest are simply wrong. The conventional wisdom—that "get tough" tactics are a regrettable necessity in poor communities of color and that efficiency requires the drug war to be waged in the most vulnerable neighborhoods—turns out to be, as many have long suspected, nothing more than wartime propaganda, not sound policy.