Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid is president of Sound Vision, an Islamic not-for-profit organization. “It will lead to the escalation of the social and armed conflict, fail to solve the drug trafficking problem, endanger the peace process, attack indigenous populations’ culture and lifestyles, seriously hamper the Amazon eco-system, worsen the humanitarian and human rights crisis, promote forced displacement, and further worsen the social and political crisis,” wrote a coalition of 73 Colombian non-governmental organizations to the United States 15 years ago. With such dire warnings and dangerous rhetoric, what “it” could they be referring to? None other than the so-called American “War on Drugs.” These far-reaching social implications mirror those of the War on Terror, another example of military rhetoric that some United States officials use to describe social policy agendas.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp Have you ever known something to be true, and then felt that you were discovering it again for the first time? Grief can be like this: you think you have come to terms with a loss, and then realize you have not. This happened to me last week as I reread Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. What struck me was not just the absurdity and cruelty of our drug laws. It was the degree to which we have created an entire criminal justice system that conspires against those who are black, brown, and poor. All parts work in relentless sequence against whoever has been drawn in.
Clergy for a New Drug Policy opposes the harsh mandatory minimums that have radically increased the number of Americans in prison for non-violent offenses. We are excited to report that a bipartisan group of senators has crafted legislation that would reduce mandatory minimums. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 would help reverse the “tough on crime” policies that have dramatically increased the nation’s prison population and disproportionately incarcerated people of color.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp It’s not surprising that one of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s first acts upon taking office almost a year ago was to create a special commission to help him reduce Illinois’ prison population by 25% within the next ten years. Reducing prison costs has become a national issue transcending the deep divisions between political parties. In a politically gridlocked state, it is an area in which he might achieve something. With a $4 billion current-year budget deficit looming, the potential savings in reduced costs of incarceration could come in handy. What are the prospects for real reform? Recent actions by the Governor raise serious doubts. Six months before the Commission is scheduled to produce his final report, he is blocking the kinds of changes essential to achieving its stated goals.
A January 2015 report by the Vera Institute of Justice entitled “End of an Era? The Impact of Drug Law Reform in New York City” examines the early implementation of 2009 reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, finding both successes and areas to improve.