Morality: The policies of prohibition, criminalization, and incarceration are inconsistent with our morals and values. Drug War Stories will examine the morality and the moral consequences of the War on Drugs.
When we think of criminal justice, there is a lot of discussion about statistics. Like say, 1 in 52 Americans is on Probation or Parole. Or that it costs around $40,000.00 a year to incarcerate someone. While we will continue to examine the numbers in fighting the War on Drugs, Drug War Stories believes that sometimes we, as a society, give these statistics a greater importance than what they actually deserve.
The problem with statistics is they’re just a series of numbers and facts. They can tell you totals and ratios and sums. They can help you perform analyses and calculations.
There are many arguments, particularly during election season, that use distorted statistics for their particular gain. Whether it be Reagan’s Tough on Crime movement that borne mandatory minimums or whether it be an organization’s use of statistics to fight the unjust war, what is often forgotten is that the people behind the statistics are actual human beings.
But in the end, they do nothing to actually solve the true problem that we face when it comes to the War on Drugs. They don’t help us understand the humanity involved, in every aspect of this terrible fight. They don’t help us to understand the desperation facing individuals who see no positive options in their lives. They don’t tell us of the frustration and agony of children who are left without parents, without siblings, without anyone to give them direction in their lives. They don’t give us insight into the families that have been destroyed and they certainly don’t help us gain a new perspective on the most marginalized of our society.
And so, inevitably, these statistics fail us. While they seek to appeal to logic instead of compassion, to facts instead of understanding, statistics come up so far short. In our zeal to appease reason, we have reduced humanity to a series of numbers and we’ve lost sight of the true cost, people.
These are people whose liberty is being deprived, sometimes for life, whose careers and properties and very lives are taken from them for the sake of an empirically failing and immoral War on Drugs. This failing War on Drugs has led to the highest incarceration rate in the world. It has disproportionately impacted minorities. And because of it, the United States spends over fifty-one billion dollars a year fighting this devastating war with no real progress visible.
Seeing these individuals as statistics instead of people has a way of dehumanizing them, of making them “less than.” Instead of looking at them as people that are broken and struggling and hurting, we see numbers to be sorted and accounted for. But in this process, we forget a fundamental truth. There is a beauty in brokenness.
When ego and pride are completely stripped away all that’s left is the sincerity of the soul. The pure and unadulterated honesty that’s found in it is something so rarely found outside of the struggles of life. And it will not be until we love each other as human beings, and stop viewing human beings as mere statistics, that we will have a better chance of ending the War on Drugs.
Beyond the moral implications of incarcerating people for the “crime” of addiction, there is the wider issue of criminalizing private behavior. Even when addiction isn’t the issue, what a person choses to do with their own body – for example the private use marijuana – is an issue of human rights, far too often abused in the name of “law.”
Drug War Stories is committed to humanizing the devastation of the Drug War on real human beings and putting a human face on the War on Drugs.