War On Crime Drugs And Poverty Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

This paper will go into detail about the various domestic wars that the United States has been in for the last fifty years or so. It goes in depth about the ways that the United States has tried to combat the poverty and drug problem in the country. It will also speak about how much money has been funneled into these programs to help the needy and the amount of money that we have spent trying to deter drugs from being a problem with our country. Unfortunately this paper will also speak about how even with all of the money and help that we have tried to give these people, not much has really changed, the statistics are still relatively the same as the way in the mid 1960's when these domestic wars began. It will also talk about the ideal and current states of the poverty and drug problems in the United States, and also how these domestic wars have affected the criminal justice system since their inception. Finally this paper will talk about how these domestic wars have pretty much been a failure all around. It is not that they have not tried to fix these problems, they have just stretched their budget to thin and are trying to help out so many different people that they are not really helping anyone in the meantime.


Throughout time there have been many issues that the united States have tried to deal with. Some of these issues include crime, poverty, and drugs. We have spent countless amounts of dollars in order to try and control these issues, but has anything really come from all of the money that we have spent. With all of the changes that we have tried to make within our country, not much has changed, for the better or worse. The people of America have spent their hard earned money to try and better the people of our country, and it seems that their money has largely gone to waste from the lack of effect that these separate domestic wars have had. This paper will go into detail about how the United States has tried to combat these wars, and some of the things that they may have done wrong while trying to help the poor, combat the drug abuse, and lower the overall crime rate.


When President Johnson took office in 1964, the poverty rate in the United States was around 19%. Since 1964 the United States has spent around 15 trillion dollars trying to help the poor with various programs, including welfare. Throughout that time the poverty rate in the United States never feel below 10 percent, and is currently around 15 percent with no show of declining. (Tennant 2012) When the War of Poverty was declared in 1964 the federal government spent around 250 million per year. In 2011 the Federal government spent around 900 million to fight poverty. One of the problems that the United States has run into is the way that they have spent the money. The programs that the united States have in place to help the poor are geared towards giving them food, shelter and health care, the problem is that none of that really helps the person get out of poverty, it just helps them get by. It does not give them a steady job that they can rely upon for income. In the United States the poverty level is 22,000 dollars for a family of four and around 11,000 dollars for an individual. However this does not include accumulated wealth, which includes home ownership, and also it, does not include government aids such as tax credits and food stamps. If the government did take those factors into account an additional 9 million people in the United States would be under the poverty line. (Yen 2012)

There is also a significant difference in the demographic of people who are under the poverty line. A much larger amount of African Americans and Latinos are under the poverty line comparative to people of Caucasian descent. This is because of a much larger single parent household for those of African Americans. This puts them at a significant disadvantage because only one person is working in the family. For the Latino's they have a much higher immigration rate than those of African Americans and Caucasians. They are put at a significant disadvantage because many of these people did not receive the proper education needed to find a steady well paying job. (Gradin 2012) African Americans make up around 12 percent of the United States work force, while Latino's make up around 15 percent. However African Americans who are working make up around 18 percent of people whose jobs do not cover their basic needs, such as food, water, shelter. The number for the Latino's is even larger with roughly 25 percent not being able to provide basic needs for their families. (Wicks-Lim 2012)

The War on poverty has been almost a fifty year epidemic in the United States. We have spent trillions of dollars to try and combat this problem, but nothing has really changed. With the lack of employment that is now in the United States it is going to continue to be a problem. It is not that we have not tried to fix this ongoing problem; it is the way that we went about it. The programs that we have in place are geared towards short term solutions rather than long term. Giving these people food to eat and a place to sleep is very important; however this does not give them steady income, and does not give them the opportunity to better themselves, rather just letting them squeak by with what we give them.

In 1971 President Richard Nixon declared a war on Drugs. This war was geared towards stopping the drug abuse that was happening in the United States. This war on drugs has given countless amounts of jobs to police officers, and many other law enforcement officials. With this war on drugs we have heightened security at our borders to try and stop drug smuggling into the United States, and we have created stricter laws towards drug offenders which now put them in jail rather than probation or a fine. (O'Connor2010) With all of these arrests that have been made the population in our prison system has skyrocketed. The united states now have the highest incarceration rate in the world, with approximately 750 out of every 100,000 people are incarcerated. (Maximus 2010)

With all of the heightened security, and the drug laws that the united States have imposed, you would figure that the drug problem in the United States is in a better place than it was in the early 1970's. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1980 he took a very strong stand against drugs in the United States. He stated "It's far more effective if you take the customers away than if you try to take the drugs away from those who want to be customers." This quote resonates well with what happened during the Reagan administration. Many thousands of men and women were incarcerated for drug possession. The problem with the war on drugs has not been that they are putting so many people in prison; it is that the wrong people are being sent to jail. For the most part it is not the drug dealers, or suppliers going to prison, it is the recreational user who has a small amount of the drug on them and they are sent to prison. (Telesmanich 2001)

Is the United States using the money that they spend to deter drug smuggling and drug abuse the right way? Since Richard Nixon took over in office the United States has spent billions of dollars trying to combat the ongoing drug problem, the majority of that money has been spent on law enforcement officers, border patrol and money being funneled into the prison system. (NPR 2012) The smaller amount of the money has been geared towards reformation, education and rehabilitation programs. It is not that that United States has not tried to stop the drug problem in the United States; they just seem to not be taking the correct approach. If they put more of an emphasis on educating people about how dangerous drug use can be for your health, rather than stating just stating that they are going to go to prison if they do drugs, this may lead to more people not doing drugs. If more money is geared towards rehabilitation programs for these individuals, it may give people the strength to abstain from using these illicit drugs, many of these people only know the lifestyle that got them into trouble in the first place, and it is up to the government to try and put these individuals in programs where they can try and better themselves. (Telesmanich 2001)

Both the War on Drugs and the War on poverty in the United States are all part of a larger aspect, and that is the War on Crime. Crime rates have fallen since the 1990's and many think that it is because of the decreasing prices of illicit drugs. With the vast majority of crimes being drug related crimes, this led to a fall in overall crimes. (Martin 2012) However in the 1980's and 1990's the prison sentences that were given out were longer than they had been previously, which meant a lot of the people who committed the drug related crimes were still in prison or jail during this time. (Abramsky 2010) Year after year the government is putting more money into the programs and law enforcement officers to try and deter crime from happening, but the same crimes continue to happen. It may have come to the point where we need to change gears in our approach in deterring crime. Drug users have a much higher recidivism rate than those of other crimes. Things have begun to change though; in Texas in 2007 there was a 600 million dollar prison expansion that was shut down in favor of a 241 million dollar drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. (Abramsky 2010) This was a big deal because Texas was notorious for being a very tough prison state, and they changed their ways because they saw that the protocol that they had in place was not working. Many states including Kansas have also put more money into drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Impact on Society & Criminal Justice System

The wars on drugs, poverty and crime have all had separate but very drastic impacts on the society. The war on drugs has put stress on so many levels of society. Not only did it force law enforcement to put more time, effort and money into their anti drug policing and programs. With all of the money that has been spent by the these people, there have really been no significant changes in the amount of drugs that people are using, and the amounts that are making their way into our. The people still want the drugs, and people are still finding their ways to give the people what they want. It also over populated the prison systems with 1st time offenders for drug possession. This has affected the criminal justice system in many different ways, including our police force, court system and prison system. With so much time and effort being put into getting the drugs off of the street, it has led to more arrests, more court appearances, and an overcrowded prison system. With these people going to prison for petty possession crimes, this took a lot of young men and women off the street and not able to work and provide for their families. This led to larger amounts of families living under the poverty line.

Which leads us to the War on poverty, which has been an ongoing problem since its inception in the mid 1960's, taxpayers have been putting money into these programs to try and help the people who need, but it has just come up short. We are seeing more and more money every year being funneled into welfare programs and other various programs, but we have not seen any real gain in the statistics. The people of African American and Latino descent feel it the most, they have much larger poverty rate than those of Caucasian descent. It is not that the money has not been helping these people get by with food and things necessary for living, but it is that these people still do not have a steady income for themselves, and without that steady income they will never be able to get themselves out of poverty. This has impacted the criminal justice system because people who are poor and live in poverty need to find ways to make ends meet, and many times that leads to committing crimes. These crimes include selling drugs, prostitution, gang activity, stealing and many other various crimes. This has become a large part of what the police have to combat while on duty.

Ideal Vs Actual State of Affairs

The ideal state for the poverty problem that has struck this country is obvious, to try and get as many people as we can out of poverty. If we were able to give these people a job with steady income, and put them into the position to succeed it would be a wonderful thing. The actual state of the ongoing poverty problem in the United State is another story. There are just not enough full time well paying jobs that are available right now, and the way that we are combating poverty right now, we cannot get these people out of poverty, we can only give them enough to get buy, not succeed.

For the War on Drugs the ideal state would be to get as much of the drugs off of the streets and out of our country. This would deter a good portion of crime from happening. People who use drugs will commit crimes to get these drugs, and people who sell drugs take advantage of the users. The country would be healthier as a whole, with no real drug problems occurring, and people would feel safer. The actual state of the drug problem is much different. We have tried numerous ways to try and combat the epidemic, but drugs are still getting into our country and people still want to use the drugs. As long as there is a want for the drugs, people will continue to get these drugs to sell to the consumer.


The United States have tried in many ways to combat crime, poverty, and drug abuse. We the tax payers have paid billions of dollars to try and combat these crimes and help those who are in need. With the state that our country is economically it does not seem likely that we will be able to combat the problem of poverty in our country. There are not enough well paying jobs available for everyone to succeed, and the programs that we have right now only allows the poor to survive on basic human needs. The United States has also unsuccessfully tried to tackle the problem of drug abuse. Since the 1960's drug use has not fallen in any way, and we have put away thousands of people away for years for being in possession of drugs. Instead of putting these people away for years, we must put more money into rehabilitation programs so that they may succeed after their treatment. If we continue to just let these people finish their prison sentence or probation with no treatment, we will continue to see such high recidivism rates with drug abusers. It is not that the United States has not tried to fix these problems; it is that in some ways they cannot help out every poor person that lives within our country. As a country we will never be able to really stop the drug problem in the country, but we may be able to help out some of these people with treatment programs. With slight changes that could be implemented I think that they may be able to lower the rate of these people going back to prison. With that being said we cannot stop trying to help these people, we must just find other ways to implement our money to make it more worthwhile.