End the Other War–The War on Drugs (and Minorities)

Cato-at-Liberty points out that, in addition to the recommendations of the American Freedom Agenda discussed in the previous post, there is another area where a liberal blogger called for Democratic candidates to be more liberal/libertarian–on the drug war. Ariana Huffington wrote about the drug war last week, noting “a major disconnect in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House. While all the top candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed War on Drugs, a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.” Huffington wrote:

Our political leaders’ avoidance of this issue comes with a very stiff price (and not just the more than $50 billion a year we’re spending on the failed drug war). The toll is paid in shattered families, devastated inner cities, and wasted lives (with no apologies for using that term).

During the ten years I’ve been writing about the injustice of the drug war, I’ve repeatedly seen politicians pay lip service to doing something about it, then duck and watch as the sickening status quo claimed more victims. Here in California, of the 171,000 inmates jamming our wildly overcrowded prisons, 36,000 are nonviolent drug offenders.

Huffington notes that a Republican is calling for reform, and calls on the Democratic candidates to do the same:

The injustice is so egregious that a conservative Republican senator, Jeff Sessions, is now leading the charge in Congress to ease crack sentences.

“I believe that as a matter of law enforcement and good public policy crack cocaine sentences are too heavy and can’t be justified,” says Sessions. “People don’t want us to be soft on crime, but I think we ought to make the law more rational.”

There’s a talking point Hillary and Obama should adopt. It’s both the right thing and the smart thing. Because of disenfranchisement statues, large numbers of black men who were convicted of drug crimes are ineligible to vote, even those who have fully paid their debt to society. A 2000 study found that 1.4 million African American men — 13 percent of the total black male population — were unable to vote in the 2000 election because of state laws barring felons access to the polls. In Florida, one in three black men is permanently disqualified from voting. Think that might have made a difference in the 2000 race? Our short-sighted drug laws have become the 21st Century manifestation of Jim Crow.

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