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Copyright (c) 2012 The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice
The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice

WAR ON... THE FALLOUT OF DECLARING WAR ON SOCIAL ISSUES: SYMPOSIUM ARTICLE: The War on Drugs, the Politics of Crime, and Mass Incarceration in the United States

Spring, 2012

The Journal of Gender Race and Justice

15 J. Gender Race & Just. 315

Author

Heather Schoenfeld*

Excerpt



I. Introduction
 
In November 2010, California voters narrowly defeated a ballot initiative to legalize the possession and sale of up to an ounce of marijuana. 1 Support for the initiative reflected both a shift in public attitudes about drug use 2 and the reality of the largest recession since the Great Depression. 3 After signing a previous bill into law that decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana, Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stated, "In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket." 4 Another Republican, Newt Gingrich, recently called on conservatives to "address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential." 5 Citing a price tag of $ 68 billion ("300 percent more than 25 years ago") and recidivism rates above 50%, Gingrich and the Right on Crime initiative 6 advocate "punishing low-risk offenders through lower-cost community supervision." 7 Schwarzenegger's action and Gingrich's initiative are just two examples of lawmakers' recent efforts to reconsider some of the harsh crime-control strategies of the last three decades, including the war on drugs.

Liberal advocates and social commentators, such as George Soros, have long maintained that the war on drugs has been a costly failure. 8 The litany of critiques is familiar: it does not stem the use of drugs, it disproportionately targets racial ...
 
 
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