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HurtChronicles of the Drug War Generation$
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Miriam Boeri

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520293465

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520293465.001.0001

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The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration

The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration

(p.75) Four The War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration

Miriam Boeri

University of California Press

The War on Drugs started when baby boomers entered young adulthood, and it escalated into the most intense and systemic punitive response to nonviolent criminals ever seen in modern history, fueling gang warfare and criminal activity. This decades-long drug war turned drug-experimenting adolescents and functional adult users into lifelong hard drug users and hardened criminals. It made an underclass of disenfranchised felons who could not vote and were often excluded from employment, housing, education, job training, or any possibility of supporting themselves legally for the rest of their lives. It intensified racial discrimination and devastated minority communities. Its mechanism was mass incarceration, a prison industrial complex funded by frightened taxpayers, but paradoxically increasing drug use and drug crime. It led to police corruption; unethical criminal justice practices, such as confidential informants and solitary confinement; and unjust laws, such as mandatory sentencing and “three strikes and you’re out.” The stories recounted in this chapter question the motivation behind the War on Drugs and stimulate reflection on how the lives of drug users might have been different if the money had been spent on mental health research instead of law enforcement or on social services instead of juvenile reformatories and jails.

Keywords:   War on Drugs, mass incarceration, police corruption, disenfranchised felon, racial discrimination, confidential informant, solitary confinement, mandatory sentencing, underclass

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