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A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Invest In Substance Abuse Treatment, Education and Opportunities in Communities of Color for a Better Tomorrow

WHEREAS, 2011 marks the government's forty-year anniversary of the War on Drugs, which by all accounts is a "failed" policy and through its implementation has become the new Jim Crow; and

WHEREAS, in modern history, in 1993, South Africa's Apartheid Government imprisoned 851 black men per hundred-thousand and in 2008, under the United States' mass incarceration and the war on drugs, black men are imprisoned at the rate of 4,919 per hundred-thousand population; and

WHEREAS, the United States has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prisoners, incarcerating more than 2.3 million citizens in its prisons and jails, at a rate of one in every 136 U.S. residents-the highest rate of incarceration in the world; and

WHEREAS, funds that should go into education and health are diverted to the war on drugs leaving public schools struggling and underfunded; Over the last 20 years, funding for prisons have increased 6 times the rate of higher education and K-12 funding over that same time period has decreased; and

WHEREAS, federal, state, and local costs of the war on drugs exceed $40 billion annually and has cost $1 trillion over the last forty years, yet most drug prices have fallen, while purity levels have increased dramatically, and drug abuse has not decreased at all; and

WHEREAS, when men and women who have been convicted of or admitted to a drug offense, they are then permanently prohibited from applying or receiving state or federal financial aid; and

WHEREAS, government health surveys consistently find that young whites use drugs at higher rates than young blacks; yet according to FBI uniform crime data, police in the largest counties and cities in nearly every state arrest young blacks at double, triple and even quadruple the rate of young whites; in many US cities blacks are arrested for possession at five, seven and up to ten times the rate of whites; and

WHEREAS, low level non violent drugs crimes now produces permanent, computerized, fingerprint and photograph criminal records on national databases; these criminal records are easily found on the internet by employers, landlords, credit agencies, banks, professional licensing boards, schools and colleges therefore undermining future employment and opportunities; and

WHEREAS, easily accessible criminal records become a stigma, a modern "scarlet letter" which constitutes a substantial obstacle to employment, education, and full participation in American society; the criminal records, even just for arrest, consign the young people of color who are targeted by drug war policing to a second class citizenship and a modern form of Jim Crow; and

WHEREAS, billions of dollars a year of U.S. federal government payments go to police, sheriffs and prosecutors to arrest and prosecute over a million people a year for non violent drug offenses; that funding, in Byrne Grant and other programs, other serious crimes, for public education budgets and in expanding alternatives to incarceration; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP discourages illegal drug use of any type and recognizes that addiction is a chronic medical illness that is treatable; and

WHEREAS, the National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study shows substantial reductions in criminal behavior, with a 64% decrease in all arrests after treatment, making public safety a primary beneficiary of effective drug treatment programs; and

WHEREAS, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), only 35% percent of the federal drug control budget is spent on education, prevention and treatment combined, with the remaining 65% devoted to law enforcement efforts; and

WHEREAS, women are the fastest growing prison population in the U.S., increasing by over 700% since 1977, to 98,600 at the end of 2005. Drug law violations now account for nearly one-third of incarcerated women, compared to one-fifth of men; and

WHEREAS, when men go to jail, families get poorer, but when women go to jail, children go to foster care, therefore separating families and therefore impacting generations; and

WHEREAS, we the NAACP believe that the war on drugs has failed and advocates among federal, state and local governments to repeal the war on drugs and institute in its place a public health approach that concentrates on reducing drug abuse and its destructive consequences; and

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocates for the end of any law that prohibits anyone convicted or who has admitted to sufficient facts for a drug offense, from applying for or receiving state and federal financial aid; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we reinvest dollars saved from incarceration to treatment and education programs and a proportional share of taxpayers' money to privately-owned Black organizations/groups and Black faith-based groups in proportion with the Black prison population of the U.S.; and an approach that holds state and federal agencies accountable; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate educational programs that teach our youth about drugs and other harmful substances available in society, and teach them to refrain from using any of these substances; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate for meaningful ways to combat the disparate and unjust impact of the war on drugs, including abolishing mandatory minimum sentencing for drug related offenses, which remove any discretion from judges to take into account extraneous circumstances, and which have disproportionately impacted those who come from low income communities and communities of color; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP work to abolish Byrne Grant funding that provides incentives for law enforcement to target and make arrests in drug related crimes, which they disproportionately do in low income communities and communities of color; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate for the implementation of needle exchange programs which serve to reduce HIV, Hepatitis C, and other infections related to using unclean needles by providing clean needles to those who need them, therefore increasing overall public safety for all of our communities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate for the expansion of prevention and diversion programs as well as other policies whereby law enforcement officials are required to take drug offenders to treatment programs and social service providers instead of arresting and putting them on the path to incarceration; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocates that U.S. policy should be measured not solely on drug use levels or the number of people arrested or imprisoned, but rather on the amount of drug-related harm reduced. This includes: substantially reducing drug overdose fatalities, substantially reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis, substantially reducing the number of nonviolent drug law offenders behind bars, substantially reducing the number of people arrested for drug possession, and eliminating the racial disparities in drug law enforcement; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate for a wide range of effective drug abuse treatment options (treatment on demand) that make supportive services available to all who need them, including: greater access to methadone and other maintenance therapies; specially-tailored, integrated services for families, minorities, rural communities and individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders; and effective community-based drug treatment and other alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent drug law offenders; and other policies that reduce public spending while improving public health and safety.

Derrick Lewis - Youth & College Hero

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