How the War on Drugs Increases Drug Use and Destroys Communities

The House I Live In: The War on Drugs in the United States

Directed by Eugene Jerecki (2012)

Film Review

Last night Maori TV showed The House I Live In, which maintains the US War on Drugs is far more destructive than drugs themselves. Instead of reducing illicit drug use, the War on Drugs has vastly increased it – in part because it has shifted funding from treatment to enforcement.

The documentary traces how drugs enforcement has always been targeted, not against drugs, but against ethnic minorities (and removing them from the workforce). In the white community, drug addiction has always been viewed as a public health problem. Yet in the 19th century, the first opium laws were targeted against Chinese workers imported to work on the railroads; in the early 1900s cocaine enforcement was targeted against African Americans migrating from the South to northern cities; and in the 1920s and 1930s, the first marijuana laws were directed against Hispanics coming to the US seeking work.

Although the War on Drugs was initially launched to win votes for politicians (by promising to increase incarceration rates), there seem to be other factors that are perpetuating it. According to the filmmakers, the main three are mandatory minimum sentences (which force judges to hand out 20-30 year sentences for relatively minor nonviolent drug offenses, incentives that reward cops to pursue easy drug busts* rather than more dangerous crimes like murder and rape, and the job-creating potential of the profitable prison-industrial complex.

For me the most surprising part of the film concerned the increase in amphetamine-related arrests (occurring mainly in white men) since the 2008 global economic crash. After losing their jobs, many blue collar whites have turned to amphetamine manufacture and distribution to support their families. Thus a growing number of poor whites are facing the ridiculously long mandatory sentences African and Hispanic communities have been struggling with since the 1990s.


*These incentives also cause police to focus enforcement efforts on the ghetto. This results in much higher arrest rates from African Americans, even though they use illicit drugs at roughly the same rates as whites and other ethnicities.

Mother Jones Reporter Goes Undercover in Private CCA Prison

My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard

Mother Jones (2016)

Film Review

My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard is a troubling documentary about a Mother Jones senior reporter who goes undercover to work as a prison guard in a private Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) prison in Winnfield Louisiana. The film mostly consists of Shane Bauer’s video diary and interviews with other prison staff and former inmates. Cameraman James West, who attempted to film outside the prison, was arrested by sheriff’s officers for criminal trespass.

Filmmakers mainly focus on the extremely demoralizing working conditions. Entry level guards earn $9 an hour – even in Winn this is insufficient to live on. Working conditions are incredibly dangerous. To save money (and increase profits), CCA keeps staff numbers low, which means there are rarely sufficient security personnel to cope with inmate violence. In fact, guards at Winn Correctional Center are trained not to intervene in shank fights, which are a routine occurrence.

The failure to provide adequate food or medical or mental health care for inmates is even more shocking. Bauer highlights the case of a diabetic inmate who had to have several fingers and both legs amputated for gangrene because prison authorities refused to get medical attention for him.

Parts 2-6 start automatically when Part 1 ends.

Read accompanying article at My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard

 

The Cost of Racism to White America

The Cost of Racism to White America

University of Massachusetts Professor John H Bracey (2011)

Film Review

In his lecture, Professor Bracey blames racism and white privilege for US having the most poorly organized working class in the industrialized world. From the start of Jim Crow after the Civil War to the late sixties, Africa Americans were deliberately excluded from trade unions, a perfect set-up for white bosses to use non-unions black workers to bust strikes and unions. This absence of working class solidarity meant it took American workers until the 1930s to win basic rights and benefits (eg Social Security, unemployment compensation and welfare) that European workers won in the 1880s.

Racism also keeps white people ignorant of their own history. For example they are unaware (I sure was) that the Battle of the Alamo was fought to extend slavery to Texas (slavery was illegal when Mexico owned Texas).

The refusal of northern whites to confront their own racism would ultimately culminate in the Civil War, which would result in more deaths (1 million) than all other US wars combined.

Bracey also blames racist attitudes for the absence of public education in the South until after the Civil War. It would be black Reconstruction governments that established free public education in the South – for all children (black and white). They would also establish the first state universities in Georgia and Mississippi.”

Ironically it was African Americans who founded Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), though they were later excluded when the Ku Klux Kan violently overthrew the southern Reconstruction governments.

It was also black women who organized the southern textile mills and not Norma Ray, as portrayed in the popular film starring Sally Fields.

Continuing racism forces white people to sacrifice education, health, housing and social service programs to cover the phenomenal cost of mass incarceration (of mainly black and Hispanic Americans. At an annual cost of $40,000 per inmate, the cost of incarcerating 2.4 million Americans adds up to $960 billion annually.

The presentation starts at 7 min.

 

The CIA Role in Narcotics Trafficking

 peter dale scott

Part 2 of Counter-intelligence: Shining a Light on Black Operations

“Deep state” is Part 2 of a five part documentary by Scott Noble called Counter-Intelligence: Shining a Light on Black Operations. Historian and former diplomat Peter Dale Scott coined the term Deep State to describe the shadow government that operates outside our so-called democratic institutions to service the needs of America’s wealthy elite.

This episode focuses on close historical links between the Mafia and CIA and the role of narcotics trafficking in all major CIA covert operations. CIA drug trafficking serves two main purposes. In addition to providing off the books (not reportable to Congress) income for clandestine operations, it’s also a source of ready-made criminal networks. The latter are valuable as a conduits for weapons delivery to CIA mercenaries and as lethal enforcers of corporate interests against labor and human rights activists.

Scott, who is interviewed at length, stresses the instrumental role of the CIA in ALL global narcotics trafficking. The converse is also true. Citing the French Connection (centered in Marseilles) and the Golden Triangle (in Southeast Asia) as prime examples, he makes the case that all major narcotics hubs collapse following CIA withdrawal from the region.

“Deep State” also shines a light on current drug operations in Afghanistan and Columbia. At present Afghanistan is the world’s leading heroin producer,  a direct result of CIA involvement in the region. Colombia, in turn is the world’s largest purveyor of cocaine, thanks to the CIA decision to use Colombia to “block the spread” of communism from Cuba to the rest of Latin America.

According to filmmaker Scott Noble,  all major Wall Street banks have engaged in laundering profits from illicit narcotics. Illegal drugs are America’s third biggest commodity, with the wealthy elite siphoning off the vast majority of drug profits. They also rake in immense profits from the prison industrial complex, a growth industry that owes its existence to the so-called War on Drugs. Wells Fargo and other Wall Street banks are major investors in the prison privatization industry.

Counter-intelligence: Shining a Light on Black Operations
Scott Noble
Metanoia Films (2013)
photo credit: jimforest via photopin cc
Also posted at Veterans Today

Books to Prisoners

The Political Importance of Literacy

books

Books to Prisoners is a Seattle-based, all-volunteer non-profit organization founded in 1973 under the sponsorship of Left Bank Books. BTP ships books to prisoners – at their request. Prisoners send them 1,200 – 1,300 book requests per month. BTP believes that books are important tools for learning and self-improvement. Moreover, as Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire taught, literacy and reading opens peoples’ minds to new ideas and possibilities.

In the US, which spends vastly more on the prison industrial complex than schools, prison is the primary anti-poverty program. American prisons house nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners – more than 2.2 million. The vast majority are from disadvantaged communities and are either African American or Hispanic. Most have been incarcerated for victimless drug crimes. Prison rehabilitation is a myth, especially as prison privatization and state cutbacks have greatly curtailed prisoners’ access educational and training opportunities.

BTP prefers monetary donations. However they do welcome books from the following categories provided they are in paperback (most prisons prohibit hard back books) – and preferably accompanied with a $35-70 donation to cover the cost of shipping them to prisons.

  • Dictionaries
  • Antiquarian books (these can be sold to cover postage)
  • Spanish books
  •   Legal self-help
  • Almanacs
  • Books on chess
  • Books on drawing
  • Vocational education
  • How-to Books
  • Textbooks
  • GED preparation books
  • African-American history
  • True crime
  • Paperback fiction: thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, Westerns, fantasy, horror

Books (and donations) can be mailed to:

Books to Prisoners, c/o Left Bank Books, 92 Pike St. Box A, Seattle WA 98101

People can also donate via the BTP website: http://www.bookstoprisoners.net/donate/

The following video illustrates the profound effect this forty-year program has had on prisoners’ lives:

I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive – Malcolm X

photo credit: » Zitona « via photopin cc

Originally posted at Veterans Today