In July, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) declared that it was time to end the drug war. “We know that the war on drugs has been a complete failure because in the forty years that we’ve been waging this war, drug use and abuse has not gone down,” said Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Program.
Also at issue: Record numbers of African Americans rotting behind bars. Caught with three grams of crack cocaine in 2006, 29-year-old Atiba Parker was sentenced by a Mississippi judge to 42 years. Father of two Erik Thompson was busted in a crack sting in Baltimore in 1998 and, due to two drug-related priors, was sentenced to 25 years.
As the NAACP notes, mandatory minimums and other aspects of America’s drug laws continue to disproportionately harm racial minorities like Thompson and Parker. In the same July announcement, the NAACP noted that “African Americans are in fact 13 times more likely to go to jail for the same drug-related offense than their white counterparts.”
“The only thing we’ve accomplished is becoming the world’s largest incarcerator, sending people with mental health and addiction issues to prison, and creating a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960s,” Rooks said. The NAACP will vote in October on a resolution encouraging clean needle exchange programs and condemning mandatory minimums and federally funded drug task forces.