High Crime Rates War On Drugs Criminology Essay

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Some authors and critics of the Drug War uphold that the America's drug policy has induced the formation "a permanent underclass of people who have few educational or job opportunities, often as a result of being punished for drug offenses which in turn have resulted from attempts to earn a living in spite of having no education or job opportunities. Penalties for drug crimes among youth almost always involve permanent or semi-permanent removal from opportunities for education, strip them of voting rights, and later involve creation of criminal records which make employment far more difficult." [2] 

In 1986, the Department of Defense funded a two-year study by the RAND Corporation, the findings of which suggested that the utilization of the military to interdict drugs into the homeland would have little or no effect on the illicit drug trade (cocaine in particular) and may actually increase the profits of cocaine cartels and manufacturers.

Countless issues the Drug War purports to resolve are in fact initiated by the America's Drug Enforcement and Drug Policies. First, there's the continuation of what is effectively the 'New Prohibition' which perpetuates a black market and its associated violence. Then there are public health problems like HIV and Hepatitis C which are in turn exacerbated by zero tolerance laws that restrict access to clean needles. Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, addiction and delinquency. [3] 

"Few public policies have compromised public health and undermined our fundamental civil liberties for so long and to such a degree as the War on Drugs. The United States is now the world's largest jailer, imprisoning nearly half a million people for drug offense alone. That's more people than Western Europe, with a bigger population, incarcerates for all offenses. Roughly 1.5 million people are arrested each year for drug law violations - 40% of them just for marijuana possession." [4] 

For my research design, I will primarily be using the Aggregate Data Analysis Method. With this method I will be collecting group data from sources such as the latest FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. Aggregate data design uses 'group' as the unit of analysis. It is concerned with the control of confounding and adjustment for variation that are relevant to small area analysis such as counties or even cities. Aggregate data study utilizes individual data and the models that are used are constructed from the individual level. In aggregate data study, focus is on the estimation of exposure effects rather than on prediction of events.

Using 'group' as the unit of analysis has many advantages such as: 1) measurement error may cause less bias in group-level than individual studies; 2) Group-level studies can estimate exposure effects that may be difficult to detect within any one group of individuals; 3) Crime rates often show more variation between rather than within areas; 4) Large groups such as those defined by cities, states, or countries are often available through public-use data sets. Hence, they can often be performed quickly and inexpensively; 5) Since large populations are considered, group studies provide a means of increasing statistical power.

My level of measurement would be crimes committed per 100,000 people. Sometimes, the number will vary but the group will always be in the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands. As I stated before, the data is procured from reports given by police departments within the United States.

The term War on Drugs will be clearly defined as it entails drug laws, sentencing, and drug enforcement in the US.

I will be examining crime rates in areas where there is a high concentration of drug production, distribution and consumption and compare that data with areas where there the proportional rates are not as high. I will take into account the effect of the War on Drugs as it has evolved in the form of more draconian and stringent laws and law enforcement.

Incarceration rates will also be examined along with the sentencing, i.e. the reason why persons were sent to prison. Examination of the War on Drugs as well as the rates of incarceration will span over decades of time.

A brief comparison study of the Prohibition Era will also be utilized as well as comparisons to other nations of similar political and socio-economic backgrounds who do not engage in a War on Drugs.

Literary Review

1. Baum, Dan. Smoke and Mirrors: the War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997.

Presently, it's been almost fifty years of draconian law enforcement policies, illegal drugs are readily attainable, the potency of these illegal substances are stronger, drug-related violence is at epidemic levels, and kingpins continue to be wealthy. The money allocated for the Departments of the Interior, Commerce, and State don't even add up to the amount spent on the War on Drugs.

Human misery in the form of a mushrooming prison population and less than fair justice system increases the real cost to immeasurable heights. Dan Baum posits that what began as hyperbole during the 1968 campaign season has turned into what is now known as the "prison-industrial complex."

2. Benoit, Ellen. "Not Just a Matter of Criminal Justice: States, Institutions, and North American Drug Policy."Sociological Forum 18.2 (2003): 269-94. JSTOR. Web. 20 Sept. 2010.

This paper puts forth a theory that focuses on the political aspect as well as the institutions pertaining to the 'Drug War' as opposed to the typical emphasis on social control vis-à-vis the Criminal Justice System. Benoit links present day drug-control policies to their institutional benefactors. He then argues for a more holistic approach to combatting the drug problem.

He compares and contrasts drug policies between the US and Canada during the 1980's when the American campaign ratcheted up.

3. Bullington, Bruce, and Alan A. Block. "A Trojan Horse: Anti-communism and the War on Drugs." Crime, Law, and Social Change 14.1 (1990): 39-55. Springerlink. Web. 27 Sept. 2010.

Bruce Bullington suggests in this article that the War on Drugs was actually by-product of the Cold War. American Drug Enforcement policies in other countries were actually smoke-screens for counter-intelligence and paramilitary actions. The article illustrates that the CIA was complicit in narco-trafficking in order to combat Soviet influence, thus undercutting domestic efforts in curbing the domestic illegal drug trade.

4. Burton-Rose, Daniel, Dan Pens, and Paul Wright. The Celling of America: an inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry. Monroe, Me.: Common Courage, 1998.

The article articulates the issue of alienation of the prison population. The United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world. Aside from sentencing, prisoners and people who are subject to imprisonment have become targets of opportunity for legislators. The article also criticizes the over-use of information relayed by prison officials as primary sources for data.

5. Caulkins, Jonathan P. "Zero-Tolerance Policies: Do They Inhibit or Stimulate Illicit Drug Consumption?"Management Science 39.4 (1993): 458-76. JSTOR. Web. 22 Sept. 2010.

Jonathan P. Caulkins critiques "Zero-Tolerance" policies regarding drug possession. The article articulates the actual positive causal relationship as opposed to the implied negative causal relationship between Zero-tolerance parties and increased drug consumption. He compares this finding with his proposal of having the punishment increase in relations to the quantity possessed when one is arrested.

Caulkins reinforces his theory with a mathematical model and investigates various other possibilities for possible punishment for drug possession.

6. Rowe, Thomas C. Federal Narcotics Laws and the War on Drugs: Money down a Rat Hole. Binghamton, NY: Haworth, 2006.

The book posits that common misconceptions and myths regarding drug use have led to anti-drug efforts that have proven to be fruitless and even harmful in the United States. The book opens with a historical recounting of anti-drug legislation in the US, including the evolution of the FBI and what is now the Drug Enforcement Agency and also details the role played by the Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Narcotics for thirty years, Harry Anslinger. The other half of the book delves into the botched efforts for interdiction and the dilatory results due to what is known as the "prison-industrial complex." It touches on the issue of having parties benefiting from placing people in prison.

The third segment of the book covers arguments for and against drug legalization, and offers recommendations for more effective approaches than what the status quo allows.