|Photo: The Daily Record
|Benjamin Jealous, NAACP president and CEO:
“These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped”
The NAACP has just joined the list of prominent organizations and individuals calling for a major paradigm shift away from the failed and punitive “War On Drugs” and toward a health-based approach with a historic resolution passed Tuesday at the organization’s national conference in Los Angeles.
“Today the NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice, and effective law enforcement,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP. “These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidence-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America.”
Neill Franklin, an African American former narcotics cop from Baltimore and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP
), had presented a talk on the need to end the War On Drugs at the NAACP
conference on Monday.
“The NAACP has been on the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and social justice in this country for over a century,” Franklin said Tuesday about the passage of the resolution.
“The fact that these leaders are joining others like the National Black Police Association in calling for an end to the ‘war on drugs’ should be a wake up call to those politicians — including and especially President Obama — who still have not come to terms with the devastation that the ‘drug war’ causes in our society and especially in communities of color,” Franklin said.
The resolution was voted on by a majority of delegates at the 102nd NAACP Annual Convention. The overall message of the resolution is captured by its title: A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow.
The resolution outlines the facts about the failed Drug War, highlighting that the U.S. spends more than $40 billion annually on the War On Drugs, locking up low level drug offenders — mostly from communities of color.
African Americans are, in fact, 13 times more likely to go to jail for the same drug-related offense than their white counterparts.
“Studies show that all racial groups abuse drugs at similar rates, but the numbers also show that African Americans, Hispanics and other people of color are stopped, searched, arrested, charged, convicted, and sent to prison for drug-related charges at a much higher rate,” said Alice Huffman, president of the California State Conference of the NAACP.
“This dual system of drug law enforcement that serves to keep African Americans and other minorities under lock and key and in prison must be exposed and eradicated,” Huffman said. “Instead of sending drug offenders to prison, the resolution calls for the creation and expansion of rehabilitation and treatment programs, methadone clinics, and other treatment protocols that have been proven effective.”
“We know that the war on drugs has been a complete failure because in the 40 years that we’ve been waging this war, drug use and abuse has not gone down,” said Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program.
“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.”
Once ratified by the board of directors in October, the resolution will encourage the more than 1,200 active NAACP units across the country to organize campaigns to advocate for the end of the War On Drugs.