Very nice column by Neil Franklin, executive director of LEAP. This is Your Neighborhood on the Drug War
Few people discussing the recent riots and protests in Baltimore have bothered to question why young people would feel angry enough to destroy their own neighborhood. Some have suggested the unrest can be blamed largely on the “breakdown” of the family structure in poor neighborhoods, particularly in poor communities of color, where fathers are frequently absent.
What that suggestion fails to address is why the family structure would be breaking down in the first place. The long and short answer is: The Drug War is tearing these families apart. People who suffer from addictions in poor neighborhoods don’t have access to the kind of treatment options that middle and upper class families do, meaning parents with addictions are less able to be breadwinners and look after their children. These neighborhoods also have markedly fewer job openings, and feeding oneself and their family doesn’t become any less imperative when you’re poor, so selling drugs may be the easiest way to keep everyone fed and a roof overhead, however minimally. […]
Many police departments across the country have unwittingly played into a system of racial prejudice that has unfairly targeted communities of color for drug crimes for decades. There are more black men in the penal system now than there were slaves in 1850, yet we’re bewildered that anyone might get angry enough to burn down pharmacies or smash police cars after finding out yet another unarmed member of their community has died in police custody. […]
Cops are public servants who should be helping victims of violent crimes get justice. Prohibition has only created more violence and made neighborhoods more dangerous. Legalize and regulate drugs from a public health perspective, and put our cops back in charge of solving the nearly 40% of murders and 60% of rape cases that go unsolved.
Each time there’s a tragedy in our city neighborhoods, people are ready to blame the citizen, the cop, the jury, etc., but it’s important that they look at the larger picture — what fosters and fuels situations where such disfunction in our criminal justice system occurs. And one of the biggest offenders is the drug war.