Carolina Day School

Honors Papers 2021-22

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Matin 1 Julia Matin Ms. Sims AP Language and Composition 22 March, 2021 Forgetting the War on Drugs: How to Effectively Reverse Mass Incarceration in America Throughout the sixties and seventies, the United States witnessed an immense rise in crime: homicide rates doubled, the number of burglaries skyrocketed, and the general fear of criminal activity amongst the American public climbed steadily alongside these statistics. In response to this escalation in crime rates, the president at the time, Richard Nixon, assumed a tough stance on crime by launching his controversial "War on Drugs" campaign and enacted stricter policies against lawbreakers. However, as crime rates eventually dropped, incarceration rates continued to rise, disproportionately affecting African Americans. Decades later, author Michelle Alexander published The New Jim Crow in which she identified this drastic rise in America's prison population as the continuation of the Jim Crow Era and popularized the notion that the War on Drugs was the primary contributor to mass incarceration. Although Alexander's argument shed light on an important racial issue within the criminal justice system, she and other reformers misconstrue the War on Drugs as the primary contributor to mass incarceration. Rather than reforming low-level drug offenses, policy makers should lessen punishments on violent crime, shorten prison sentences, and limit the power of individual judges and prosecutors in order to decrease incarceration rates. Following the publication of The New Jim Crow in 2010, many Americans–primarily on the left–held the common misconception that drug crimes accounted for the majority of America's prison population, rather than violent ones. Alexander claims that "the uncomfortable

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