The 1970s-1980s: The War On Drugs And Changes In Sentencing Policy

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Over the past 40 years U.S. incarceration has grown at an extraordinary rate, with the United States’ prison population increasing from 320,000 inmates in 1980 to nearly 2.3 million inmates in 2013. The growth in prison population is in part due to society’s shift toward tough on crime policies including determinate sentencing, truth-in-sentencing laws, and mandatory minimums. These tough on crime policies resulted in more individuals committing less serious crimes being sentenced to serve time and longer prison sentences. The 1970s-1980s: The War on Drugs and Changes in Sentencing Policy Incarceration rates did rise above 140 persons imprisoned per 100,000 of the population until the mid 1970s. Since the mid 1970s, there have been …show more content…

The steep increase in incarceration rates during these years coincides with the Reagan administration’s enhancement of Nixon’s War on Drugs through the Anti- Drug Abuse Act of 1986. One key part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act is the mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drugs offenses including discrepancies in sentencing between cocaine and crack cocaine. The version of the Anti Drug Abuse Act passed in 1988 provided monetary incentives for police agencies to implement the war on drugs through the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Program (Byrne Program). These Byrne Program grants, along with civil forfeiture laws passed in 1984 that allowed police agencies to share in drug related assets, provided substantial resources and motivation for state and local law enforcement to focus on the drug …show more content…

The prison population is overwhelmingly male and disproportionately minority. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 25% of state prisoners are white, 38% are black and 21% are Hispanic, revealing a degree of disproportion when compared to the general population where 62% are white, 13% are black and 17% are Hispanic. Racial disparity with regards to imprisonment has been a feature of the prison system from decades yet this disparity has increased over time. African Americans today are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. African Americans comprise 31% of individuals arrested for drug violations. In eleven states, at least 1 in 20 black adults are in prison. Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same crime. One in nine black children and one in 38 Latino children have an incarcerated parent, compared to one in 57 white children. Higher rates of incarceration in minority communities have lead to the destruction of the family

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