Monday, May 21, 2007

War on drugs is a war on youth, people of color

Green Party of the United States

May 16, 2007

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624,
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805,


Greens call for realistic debate in the 2008 Presidential race on the War on Drugs

Democratic and Republican politicians are ignoring the human and economic devastation caused by failed drug policies, unjust laws, and targeting of young people, the poor, and African Americans and Latinos, say Green Party leaders

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders called for a national discussion on how the US's 'war on drugs' has turned into a war on young people, the poor, and African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color.

"The human and economic devastation caused by the war on drugs is missing from the range of debate among both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Politicians from these parties, when asked about drug policies, prefer to posture about law and order and endorse failed measures. These politicians don't realize that going along to get along makes one complicit said Cliff Thornton, Green candidate for Governor of Connecticut in 2006 and co-founder of Efficacy, Inc. <>, which promotes major reforms in drug policy.

Greens cited a study by the American Civil Liberties Union ("Cracks in the System: Twenty Years of Unjust Federal Crack Cocaine Law," October 2006, <>), 37% of people arrested, 59% of people convicted, and 74% of those sent to prison are African American, even though only 15% of drug users are African American.

Cliff Thorton and Family

The Associated Press <> has reported that "a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department.... From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth."

In state prisons, 260,000 people were serving sentences on nonviolent drug charges in 2005, of whom more than 70% were African American or Latino <>. The Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that nearly one in eight drug prisoners (45,000 Americans) are behind bars for marijuana-related offenses.

Green leaders also strongly criticized the punitive denial of financial aid to students with drug convictions, and supported Students for a Sensible Drug Policy <> in their effort to persuade Congress to reinstate such aid.

"The war on drugs is an excuse to ignore the US Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, with long prison sentences for minor and nonviolent offenses. The drug war is meant to be waged, not won," added Mr. Thornton. "This is in part a result of pressure on elected officials from the private prison industry lobby, which seeks to build new prisons and fill up cells in order to win government giveaways and increase corporate profits. The Green Party calls for a public debate that challenges the rhetoric of Democratic and Republican politicians who are under influence of these companies, and that recognizes how the war on drugs has only resulted in more crime and violence."

"We need to stop spending $50 billion a year on the drug war, and use that money for treatment. We need to repeal mandatory sentencing laws, which override judges' discretion in determining prison time, and 'three strikes' laws that send people -- mostly the poor and people of color -- away for life on nonviolent and minor felonies," said Kevin Zeese, 2006 candidate for the US Senate candidate in Maryland and president of Common Sense for Drug Policy <>.

The Green Party's national platform <> endorses decriminalization of victimless crimes, such as the possession of small amounts of marijuana; an end to the war on drugs; expanded drug counseling and treatment; and an end to arrest of 'medical marijuana' arrests and prosecution.

"Law enforcement should focus efforts on organized crime, including the laundering of drug money at banks, rather than on street-level drug trade, in which kids who get arrested -- or killed -- are quickly replaced," said Nan Garrett, Co-Chair of the National Women's Caucus of the Green Party and 2002 candidate for Governor of Georgia. "Addictive use should be treated as a medical and social problem. Locking up addicts in stressed prison environments, with minimal effort to address the addiction itself, and then freeing them to go back into the same circumstances that led to their abuse of drugs has only aggravated the problem of addiction. Greens endorse rational solutions to the problems of drug abuse that are based on science and health, compassion for addicts and their families, reduction of harm rather than moral judgment, and respect for basic civil liberties and principles of justice."


Green Party of the United States
1700 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 404
Washington, DC 20009.
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN
Fax 202-319-7193

Green Party News Center

Drug War Facts:

Drug Offenders In The Corrections System - Prisons, Jails and Probation

Race, Prison and the Drug Laws (with information on the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans and other people of color)

Crime (with information on the correlation between drug prohibition and violence)

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