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Prison Rape and the War on Drugs
March 23, 2007 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Stories from Inside: Prisoner Rape and the War on Drugs (PDF). A new report by the human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape. [Via Drug WarRant.]
posted by homunculus (61 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great FPP. I almost posted this the other day. It's a long read, but the stories will crush your soul. Yay war on drugs.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 8:32 PM on March 23, 2007


I fear reading this will simply my head implode out of sadness and anger.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:33 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


smarmy post to the effect of "if you can't do the time, don't do the crime" in 5...4...3...2...

Prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment", yet another US myth.
posted by telstar at 8:40 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Prisoner rape is a human rights crisis of appalling magnitude.

True, but it's also a staple of late-night talkshow comics, so whatareyougonnado?
posted by psmealey at 8:41 PM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sorry that seemed glib, it's meant to be more bitterly angry than glib. Thanks for posting this, just the same. Incredibly depressing, but a must-read.
posted by psmealey at 8:41 PM on March 23, 2007


Prevously here. And here.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:50 PM on March 23, 2007


It was interesting to hear people talk about how the Abu Ghraib Scandal didn't reflect "American values", but really isn't sexual prisoner abuse really an American value?


People sometimes discuss how to prevent prisoner rape, coming up with all kinds of wild ideas, but really I think that if prison administrators actually wanted to stop it they could.

That said, if I were governor or something like that, what I would do would be to ban all sex in prison. This would be bad for prisoners in consensual relationships, but really we're sending them to prison not to gay orgy camp. I think that would be a fair exchange.

That way, all a victim would have to prove is that someone sodomized them, it wouldn't be a "he-said/he-said" issue.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 PM on March 23, 2007


A few years ago, my SO and I went to a standard cheap chain shoe store, and stood around looking at (ugly, stinky, stiff plastic) shoes, paying little attention to the background music. Eventually, the lyrics to this novelty song (NSF anyone's stomach) finally filtered through to us.

The music was from a boombox turned to a radio station - this was being broadcast over one of the local stations as comedy. And no one in the store management had reacted by turning it off, if they had noticed at all.
posted by dilettante at 8:56 PM on March 23, 2007


I love my country.

But this report makes me want to stand in the front yard and burn the flag.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:59 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


It was interesting to hear people talk about how the Abu Ghraib Scandal didn't reflect "American values", but really isn't sexual prisoner abuse really an American value?

So you didn't read how the AG jailers were recruited from the US prison-industrial complex? Try this.
posted by telstar at 9:14 PM on March 23, 2007


Re:

The global War on Drugs constantly influencing Canadian policy has me wanting to burn your flag too.
posted by tehloki at 9:25 PM on March 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


That said, if I were governor or something like that, what I would do would be to ban all sex in prison. This would be bad for prisoners in consensual relationships, but really we're sending them to prison not to gay orgy camp. I think that would be a fair exchange.

That is perhaps the least enlightened statement I have ever read about prison rape and gay men.
posted by owhydididoit at 9:32 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is thoroughly FUCKED UP.

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons" - Fyodor Dostoevsky
posted by Meridian at 9:39 PM on March 23, 2007


delmoi: as far as I know, sex among inmates is prohibited in US prisons. Cursory googling seems to support this.
posted by lumensimus at 9:48 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


That is perhaps the least enlightened statement I have ever read about prison rape and gay men.

Could be, but his opening statement is absolutely correct:

if prison administrators actually wanted to stop it they could.

Yes, they can. Maybe not all of it, but if they really wanted to, they could definitely reduce it significantly. But they don't, because they don't care. They don't care because the society treats it as a joke. Everyone laughs at the concept of being sent to "pound me in the ass prison". It's funny. Laugh. You broke the law, so now you're going to get fucked.

This reveals something more terrible about us, as Dostoevsky implies. We have no compassion. We cry bullshit crocodile tears along with Oprah when someone tells us a tragic story all up close and personal (and ultimately do nothing about it) about some arbitrary slight or injustice, but if someone has broken the law, well, whatever it is they get, they "have it coming" to them, and we don't want to know about it.
posted by psmealey at 9:58 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


if prison administrators actually wanted to stop it they could.

It may be that they do not care, but it does not follow that if they cared, they could put a stop to it. The problem is not just a lack of concern. Overcrowding and undersupervision preclude a solution based on "making the admins care about it."
posted by owhydididoit at 10:02 PM on March 23, 2007


Puritanical values lead to puritanical perversion.
For the record, anyone still believe in justice? or can we let that cruel myth go?
posted by sarcasman at 10:17 PM on March 23, 2007


psmealey: they could definitely reduce it significantly. But they don't, because they don't care. They don't care because the society treats it as a joke.

I think it's a little more than apathy. Tolerated prison rape makes our prisons more punitive. And for those who see prison as an instrument of vengeance and deterrence, more punitive is more effective.

How well has it worked? Well, what scares you the most about American prisons? Wouldn't want to break the law, now, would you?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:18 PM on March 23, 2007


It was interesting to hear people talk about how the Abu Ghraib Scandal didn't reflect "American values"

It's interesting how many suckers fell for that feel-good nonsense. Abu Ghraib was the logical conclusion of America's obsession with "being tough" on things and people it doesn't like. The acme of that attitude, if you will.
posted by clevershark at 10:21 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


As the author of the second story says, its very ironic that the media, and the public, got very worked up over the Abu Ghraib scandal, because the guards' behavior reflected poorly on America, yet domestic prison rape, by both guards and prisoners, is practically celebrated as part of our tough on crime culture.
posted by gsteff at 10:23 PM on March 23, 2007


Oops. What delmoi said.
posted by gsteff at 10:24 PM on March 23, 2007


So, kid ichorous, you are saying that it's part and parcel of the whole thing? What an ideal.

I sincerely hope you are never wrongly convicted of anything and end up seeing first-hand the brutality that can come your way for no other reason than opportunity. For that matter, if you are rightly convicted of anything, I pray that you such a thing would not befall you. It shouldn't be a deterrent. Threat of sexual abuse should never be a deterrent for anything, and shame on the society that sees it as such.

Just to use a religious allegory, for Christians, hell is defined as being separated from God. Some of the more literal minded among us extend that to include being fried in the lake of fire, but for most of us with imagination and intelligence, being separated from God is torture enough. To extend the metaphor to prison in this lifetime, being separated and isolated from society should also be quite enough. Being sodomized is icing on someone else's cake. It has nothing to do with justice.
posted by psmealey at 10:28 PM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Alcohol and tobacco more harmful than cannabis and ecstacy.
posted by homunculus at 10:31 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't want to break the law, now, would you?

What purpose is there in the law when you criminalize even the most trivial of actions and associations? The ever widening gulf between law and justice has created a sickening moral abyss in U.S. society.
posted by Meridian at 10:34 PM on March 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


[Thank you homunculus.]
posted by davy at 10:35 PM on March 23, 2007


This was a really, really awful and compelling read. Thanks for the post.

It seems to me that the more I know, the more I feel that there is really not one single aspect of American society that is not in desperate, screaming, urgent need of radical overhaul, most often accompanied by mass convictions of those who are in charge.
posted by perilous at 10:40 PM on March 23, 2007


How well has it worked? Well, what scares you the most about American prisons? Wouldn't want to break the law, now, would you?

Punishment according to body size.
posted by telstar at 10:40 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


"what I would do would be to ban all sex in prison." - Delmoi

This reminds me of a study I read a while back -- "The Social Construction of Love and Sexuality in a Women’s Prison" by M. Katherine Maeve, RN, PhD. I'll quote the abstract here:
"It is suggested that prison bureaucracies define women through a sexual lens, dually grounding their identities in the crimes they were sent to prison for and the perceived crimes of their sexuality."
There is this ban on sexual activity in general, and to enforce it things like casual touching (which would perhaps be considered ordinary friendly touching in the regular world) become sexualized by guards then inmates.

The emphasis on sexual activity is made doubly so by the prevailing taboo on homosexuality.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:44 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


How well has it worked? Well, what scares you the most about American prisons? Wouldn't want to break the law, now, would you?

And so no one does. Case closed!

As owhydididoit says, prisons are overcrowded and unndersupervised. A reason why prison officials allow rape to occur is that it's part of the up contract between prisoners that for all of its flaws manages to maintain some semblance of order. It's truly awful, totally unacceptable, and not limited to rape -- what do you expect when the social contract is written and enforced by a bunch of men with personality disorders who have been cast out from the rest of society? -- but for the guards it's that or anarchy.

So they accept it, and the voting public even celebrate it as "tough on crime". It makes me sick the extent to which we've decided that some people just don't matter.
posted by teem at 10:45 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jeez, Psmealey, I'm not saying it's right! I flatly believe that it's cruel and unusual punishment.

What I'm arguing is that it's no accident, nor a matter of simple negligence, no more than if our prisons were neglecting to feed their inmates. Precisely because it constitutes a cruel punishment, I believe certain elements in our justice system see it as negligence with rewards.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:48 PM on March 23, 2007


John Dolan did a good column on this in the exile.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:52 PM on March 23, 2007


teem: And so no one does. Case closed!

General deterrence, especially when holding the leash of cruel and overwhelming punishment, seems to be the prevailing strategy of the American justice system. Capital punishment, mandatory minimum sentencing, tracking and public shaming, you name it. Harrowing abuse and violence in prison only follows from this psychology of justice.

Building prisons as instruments of rehabilitation, instead of investing so recklessly in vengeance and deterrence, seems like a better answer. But that's not the culture we're dealing with. Stopping prison rape, I'd argue, will be more akin to stopping the death penalty than to solving problems of logistics or funding in the penal system.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:23 PM on March 23, 2007


hey everybody, I heard on the news the other day that saddam has prisons with rape rooms and stuff. we should invade iraq and stop this injustice right away!!!!11!1
posted by Avenger at 12:25 AM on March 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Grimgrin writes "John Dolan did a good column on this in the exile."

Wow, that was a powerful piece of writing. Well done John Dolan, and thanks, Grimgrin
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:29 AM on March 24, 2007


My comment on the issue from a related thread.
posted by mlis at 4:51 AM on March 24, 2007


.
posted by jb at 5:10 AM on March 24, 2007


if prison administrators actually wanted to stop it they could.

Yes, they can. Maybe not all of it, but if they really wanted to, they could definitely reduce it significantly. But they don't, because they don't care.


this is supposition, but i don't know if prisoner on prisoner violence, such as rape, isn't cared about. kind of the opposite. in everything i've read about prisons it always seemed to me that this stuff is allowed as a means of controlling the population. race wars keeping each other in check to a degree, as does rape, or allowing hierarchical black market crime. it's a means of checks and balances within the prison society if the admin. allows predation. but it could also be a means of entertainment for those that work at the prison. remember a few years back when those prison guards down south were busted running gladiator like games in the yard? toss a couple guys from gangs that hate each other, grab some popcorn and you beat anything on cable!
oh, i think it's fucking horrendous to say the least, thanks for the post.
posted by andywolf at 6:55 AM on March 24, 2007


actually, teem put it pretty well. damn me for not previewing.
posted by andywolf at 7:01 AM on March 24, 2007


That is perhaps the least enlightened statement I have ever read about prison rape and gay men.

How so? Are you saying that there is no consensual sex in Prison? I think it's mostly between men who would be "straight" if they had access to women.
posted by delmoi at 8:45 AM on March 24, 2007


How so? Are you saying that there is no consensual sex in Prison? I think it's mostly between men who would be "straight" if they had access to women.

Having never been to prison, I can't say for sure that there is no consensual sex there. In fact, I think there probably is. It seems, from everything I have read, to be the slightest of minorities. The vast majority of prison sex is coerced.

Moreover, the comment seemed to imply that gay men are all hot to get incarcerated so they can hook up with a pitcher. While there may be some fetishists who do feel this way, it is not characteristic of gay men in general--this I can say from experience. The only place I've ever seen gay men drooling over the prospect of prison rape is in pornographic films.

For more context, try reading the links in the earlier posts linked upthread by fandango_matt.
posted by owhydididoit at 9:37 AM on March 24, 2007


"remember a few years back when those prison guards down south were busted running gladiator like games in the yard? toss a couple guys from gangs that hate each other, grab some popcorn and you beat anything on cable!"

Heh. That was California. Corcoran.

That's alright. I can see how a Yankee could make the mistake.
posted by BigSky at 10:50 AM on March 24, 2007


One thing that I understand works well* the panopticon design. You trade privacy for freedom from victimization. It apparently really bothers a lot of inmates, but in their shoes I'd take it. I'm not persuaded that prison actually offers much of what a reasonable person would call privacy anyway.

*I could easily be wrong, I've done no real research. I imagine that even with this design the effective level of inmate safety still depends on prison policy, enforcement and the honestly/lack of collusion of the staff.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:55 AM on March 24, 2007


I could easily be wrong, I've done no real research.

If you mean the design itself, or the Bentham/Foucault notion of an "open" prison, then no, in the strictest sense that design does not work. In the broader sense the surveillance system does work, but that's not exceptionally novel. Confinement is the guiding star of most prisons; surveillance is just another refinement.
posted by spiderwire at 1:46 PM on March 24, 2007


This issue always pisses me off. I have even heard rape trauma councilors express sentiments that approve of prison rape, "because they are criminals after all." Few things surprise me, but that had me thinking WTF for a long time. Not that any human being deserves it, but there is a difference between the guy who liked cocaine so much he bought an ounce and got caught with it while speeding within a mile of a school, and a guy who likes to rob banks and kill children.

These are the same people who would be called on to serve jury duty. Very few people care, because these are men after all. If we are talking about female prison rape, everyone from feminists to politicians will be willing to discuss it and punish perpetrators.

I don't even know how to frame the issue anymore. People don't support the war on drugs because it is effective, or even worthwhile. While drinking alcohol, they just ignore when that was prohibited and think that drugs = bad = imprison people putting something into their body. I can only toss so much data at people. It's not like abortion where the nation is divided rather evenly. Anti-Drug War citizens are something like 30% (IIRC). 30%-39% is always seen as a fringe contingent too (no matter what a certain issue or politician will never dip below that amount of support.)

Male prison rape is a complete non-starter. The one's who are raped often don't want to come forward (for obvious reasons) and politicians can't do anything when the population thinks criminals are getting what they deserve.

Somehow, I just don't think abandoning people to rape and torture in U.S. Prisons, and then complaining when they come out deranged and even more angry, is exactly conducive to improving society. I can almost understand why the only thing on their mind would be punishing the human race for their lifetime of suffering. We only have to look at Iraq to see what a lifetime of harsh treatment will create. Pain and anger can numb human guilt and social conformity easily.

Cognitive dissonance seems not to affect ideologues.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 2:35 PM on March 24, 2007


Many feminists care about all human rights, including the rights of men in prison, and speak out against male prison rape on a regular basis. For instance, a quick search of Pandagon.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:22 PM on March 24, 2007


Many feminists care about all human rights, including the rights of men in prison, and speak out against male prison rape on a regular basis. For instance

I didn't mean to imply "all" or even a vast majority. I can't name a single issue on which 100 percent or even 99 percent will agree. I think it is fair to say that in most quarters (in the U.S.A) male rape is either not taken seriously or not taken in the same vain as female rape. There is no debate on female rape, it garners an automatic "evil" tag from almost everyone openly. This isn't to defame any group, hopefully this issue is above politics even though it has to be a political issue in order to change, because "rights" don't work well in America or we wouldn't have a drug war sending these citizens to prison anyway.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 3:39 PM on March 24, 2007


I think a lot of men are terrified of the idea of being sexually coerced, but don't even allow it to enter their consciousness. It is rare for men to be raped outside of prison, and a lot of guys respond to the rape hypothesis (it could happen to you) with reflexive machismo. Many men simply won't entertain the idea that they might be raped outside of prison.

It hasn't been that long, really, that the rape of women has been taken seriously, in terms of the right of a woman not to be raped (as opposed to rape as a property crime). Rape was considered evil for a long time not from consideration of the rights of women, but from consideration of the rights of the men who controlled them.
posted by owhydididoit at 4:29 PM on March 24, 2007




Prison rape could be significantly reduced by simply separating the violent and nonviolent criminals as is recommended in the report. Obviously, this wouldn't work 100% and it would be far better to simply not lock up so many nonviolent criminals for so long-- but it's a matter of society seeing rape as part of the sentence and tacitly agreeing that that's OK, basically. Prisons in Europe are not nearly as rape-ridden: this suggests that it doesn't have to be this way.

Sex is already banned in prisons, as, horrifically, are condoms in much of the U.S. system. Allowing condoms would at least reduce one risk-- some jails in NY do this.

But we just don't care.
posted by Maias at 4:50 PM on March 24, 2007


The war on drugs' war on minorities
posted by homunculus at 5:33 PM on March 24, 2007


It's not a war on minorities. Advancing that argument is actually going to result, somewhere, in conclusion that minorities can't stop doing/selling illegal drugs.

The war on drugs affects the poor/working class more intensely than other classes.

Most people arrested happen to be poor or working class, because wealthy people can afford better lawyers and tend to have better means of selling/acquiring drugs. (i.e. dealing on the street, like prostituting on the street, is stupid. Either visit the consumer's home or become an escort.)

It would be interesting to see the statistics regarding prosecutions of wealthy minorities compared to wealthy non-minorities. And poor minorities vs poor non-minorities.

A look at the Meth epidemic shows that minorities are not somehow targeted more.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2007


tehloki:The global War on Drugs constantly influencing Canadian policy has me wanting to burn your flag too.

In light of all this flag burning, I move that we start making them out of hemp. It's more cost effective.
posted by kid ichorous at 8:26 PM on March 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Something I find interesting, is the history of how there came to be significantly higher rates of prisoner aggression and violence in U.S. prisons than others in the world. I'm not saying that's a hard and fast ratio by the way. Several latin american countries have prisons almost entirely under the control of gangs with a much lower guard to inmate ratio than our own.

Anyway, a professor of mine once mentioned that the prisoner's rights movement in the 60s helped create an opportunity for some convicts to assume a greater position of power over others. All of the oldest prison gangs, and to this day some of the largest, originated in mid 60s California. It's not that concern over prisoner's welfare was a mistake. George Jackson was given a sentence of one to life. That's a brutal sentence, and it's entirely appropriate to bring that to people's attention. However, looking at him as a figure of political insight and working to increase his and other's liberty in the institution is naive. Read _The Road to Hell_ to find out a little more about George Jackson, or read Jim Carr's (one of Jackson's best friends) autobiography, _Bad_, to see what these people were.

It's a perfect example of how a human interest story, charismatic minority figure in the slammer, can motivate a course of action that has all sorts of unforeseen consequences. In this case those consequences would include a tremendous increase in the pain and suffering of some of our most unfortunate and downtrodden citizens. And unfortunately the environment that has emerged has been all too readily adopted by the rest of us as what prison should be. I have heard of numerous incidents where victims have alluded to their hopes that the offended is sexually assaulted in prison and finding the possibility satisfactory. As mentioned above, it has a lot to do with our emphasis on punishment and retribution. The psychological distance that we place between ourselves and the convicted is another obstacle to any empathy that would motivate us to change the condition of our prisons.

The above is obviously a big simplification. There has always been organized violence in institutions. I think Texas had a trustee system for decades where older tougher cons had a lot of control over sections of a prison and were backed by the guards. And it wasn't just the attention focused on George Jackson that lead to the increasing power of prison gangs. I don't think that they were even the first bunch to organize. But there was a change in the oversight and control of prisoners around then and when freedom increased prisons got more brutal. You don't read about this kind of violence or culture in accounts from the turn of the century.
posted by BigSky at 9:10 PM on March 24, 2007


A look at the Meth epidemic shows that minorities are not somehow targeted more.

You mean the one in which meth still isn't punished as severely as crack? Sorry, but as much as I agree with you on the "war on the poor", it really is also a war on minorities. The difference in money just isn't enough to explain the gigantic disparity in black arrests.
posted by vorfeed at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2007


The American Prison Nightmare
posted by homunculus at 3:05 PM on March 26, 2007


You mean the one in which meth still isn't punished as severely as crack?

We would have to look at urban drug war statistics versus non-urban drug war statistics. The elephant in the room is that meth is a rural drug and crack is an urban drug. Yes this doesn't apply to all cases, but the fact is that meth is not manufactured as much in urban communities. Rac is just too easy of an answer and it doesn't solve any question.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 3:28 AM on March 27, 2007


Rac is just too easy...

RACE
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 3:52 AM on March 27, 2007


We would have to look at urban drug war statistics versus non-urban drug war statistics. The elephant in the room is that meth is a rural drug and crack is an urban drug.

I'm not talking about arrest rates, at least not in the case of meth. I'm talking about disparity in punishment. Last I checked, being urban might make you more likely to get arrested, but it doesn't lead to the conclusion that you ought to be punished much more severely when convicted of possessing a drug similar to the one that rural people use. Unfortunately, that's what's going on. You need to get caught with 50 grams of meth to trigger the mandatory minimum sentence; for crack, it's just 5 grams. And, gram for gram, you get 3 or 4 times more doses out of meth, not fewer! It's even worse when you look at the difference in sentencing between powder cocaine and crack -- there's a 100-to-1 disparity in the amount of drug that triggers the mandatory minimum sentence. And cocaine isn't exactly a rural drug!

Like I said earlier, the money isn't enough to explain this away. The urban/rural dichotomy doesn't explain it, either. I have studied this and studied this, and there just is nothing to explain it, other than race. I'm not claiming that there's some kind of vast white conspiracy against the black man or whatever -- I expect it's the result of us-versus-them politics combined with good old fashioned ignorance and greed -- but as it is now, the Drug War has a vastly disproportionate effect on minorities. As important as class differences in America are, we do ourselves no favor when we try to hand-wave this into some sort of solely-economic effect.
posted by vorfeed at 2:18 PM on March 28, 2007


Vorfeed, this comes up a lot, but mandatory minimum sentences for crack were advocated by black community leaders and politicians in the 80s. Race did play a role, in that crack was cast as an affliction of black neighborhoods, places with low property values and lower police presence, and the state was summoned to *help* these beleaguered communities. With an iron fist.

Of course, the actual effects of this policy speak for themselves.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:16 PM on March 28, 2007


Vorfeed, this comes up a lot, but mandatory minimum sentences for crack were advocated by black community leaders and politicians in the 80s.

In the 80s. Twenty years ago. What black leaders wanted back then doesn't excuse the current situation, one that has been obviously harmful for more than a decade now, and one that hinges on law enforcement policies that could have been changed. And it pretty clearly isn't enough to explain the disparity in sentencing -- it takes two to make a disparity. Meth is quickly becoming just as reviled as crack was in the 80s, and it's just as limited to a few segments of the population, yet meth possession isn't punished nearly as severely. Even the draconian meth-mandatory-minimum bill that failed to pass Congress last year wouldn't have been as bad as the minimums for crack.

Again, I don't think there's any sort of conspiracy, here, save the prison-industrial complex that dictates how we respond to the issue of drugs in general. The minimum sentences the black politicians were asking for in the 80s were meant to help their communities... but the fact is, the cure was obviously worse than the disease, and you see fewer and fewer black leaders calling for more drug law enforcement as a result. Yet nothing is changing. If the problem were "we tried something and it was clearly unfair, so we're doing something about it", I wouldn't be as upset about this as I am... but no, it's "we tried something, and it was clearly unfair, and hardly anyone is even willing to admit that it's unfair, much less do anything about it". I mean, 1 in 3 black men between the ages of 20 and 29 is under correctional control. 1 in 3. It's 1 in 32 for the general adult population. At this point, the impact of the drug laws on the black community is way beyond a simple disparity, way beyond a problem, and getting well into emergency territory. It does not even matter why this disparity came about. It doesn't matter if it was started by black politicians, urban blight, or invading Martians. As of right now, the drug war is a racial issue (though, of course, not an exclusively racial issue), and it isn't going to get fixed until we stop pretending that it's not a racial issue.
posted by vorfeed at 4:04 PM on March 28, 2007


vorfeed: It doesn't matter if it was started by black politicians, urban blight, or invading Martians. As of right now, the drug war is a racial issue (though, of course, not an exclusively racial issue), and it isn't going to get fixed until we stop pretending that it's not a racial issue.

But it's also not going to get fixed until we stop pretending that the affected communities, and their leaders, have no accountability in the matter. Should we ever repeal the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, we've come full circle: cry (racism) till the government charges in and levels the place, and then cry again till it leaves. And here's hoping it's repealed, but we're still left in charge of a serious drug problem, and the need to supply a better solution. If we don't, who's to say that the cycle won't persist, and that our children won't end up with a Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 2026?
posted by kid ichorous at 6:28 PM on March 28, 2007


But it's also not going to get fixed until we stop pretending that the affected communities, and their leaders, have no accountability in the matter.

Naturally. That said, there's a limit to the amount of accountability one can have when one's environment is total poison, one's youth are all in jail, and one's ability to change either of those variables is severely curtailed. About 15% of all black men cannot vote. Even if they wanted to choose new leaders and make better policy, they can't. And, again, the prison-industrial complex has everybody's hands tied -- we can't even discuss drugs outside of a punitive/criminal context, and the criminal context doesn't work to stop drug abuse, so what hope do we really have of finding a solution to the drug problem? Until we address the root of the problem, we're not going to make any headway, regardless.
posted by vorfeed at 7:10 PM on March 28, 2007


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