Will Obama Undo the Harms of the War on Drugs?

Reports are circulating that President Obama is preparing to commute the sentences of dozens of individuals currently imprisoned for nonviolent drug-related crimes. So far in his presidency, he has only commuted the sentences of 43 individuals; that number is expected to approximately double with his imminent plans.

But 80 or 100 total commutations would fall far short of the 30,000 requests from federal inmates to be considered for clemency.

The injustice lying behind the drug-related imprisonment is staggering. Of those in federal prison, nearly 50 percent (over 95,000 people) are there for drug-related offenses.

Black Americans are far more likely to be arrested on drug charges than whites, even more likely to serve time for these offenses, and on average receive sentences nearly as long as the average sentence of violent white inmates.

Of the 1.5 million arrests for nonviolent drug violations in 2013, nearly 700,000 of those were for marijuana. Eighty-eight percent of marijuana arrests are for mere possession. All this despite the fact that states around the country have been liberalizing marijuana policy and have found few downsides, even where it’s been legalized for recreational use.

I could go on.

 

Read more