Moreover, according to the Sentencing Project, African-Americans serve nearly as much time behind bars for drugs (58.7 months) as whites for violent crimes (61.7 months).
Stevenson notes the “politics of fear and anger” have paralyzed lawmakers for years, preventing them from enacting effective policies and allowing them to cling to failed policies such as mandatory minimums and “three strikes” laws. The feds have served as a corrupting influence on the states by empowering them to create drug task forces, in his view, leading to the over-prosecution of drug crimes and a focus on marijuana, and the under-prosecution of murders and rapes. “Drug policy has been misguided for so long that I’m hoping it inspires a healthier conversation about how to move forward,” he said.
“For years, our elected leaders tried to outdo one another in looking ‘tough on crime’ by proposing more and more severe — and unreasonable — mandatory sentences for drug crimes,” said 34-year policing veteran Major Neill Franklin, the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of 100,000 law enforcement officials and others opposed to the war on drugs.
“These sentences were based on political considerations rather than sound policy making, and for decades we have been paying the price for that, with drug dealers often serving longer sentences than murderers and other violent criminals,” Franklin offered. “This is a good step in the right direction to reduce overcrowding prisons, but does little to reduce the harms of the war on drugs generally. I hope it is merely the first step toward a more sensible drug policy that treats consensual drug activity as a matter of public health rather than a matter for law enforcement.”