One of the biggest challenges to the poor community is the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Inspired by political aggression and one-upmanship, the act set mandatory minimum sentences on drug dealing offenses. At first harmless, the conspiracy amendments to the act extended the mandatory minimums to anyone involved in a drug operation. This has translated to young minorities ruining their lives at an early age by getting locked up for five to ten years over petty, non-violent crime.
From 1980 to 2014, the incarceration rate has constantly risen, as shown by the graph from the Bureau of Justice Statistics below.
The Pew Charitable Trusts foundation hypothesizes that the slight decline in 2015 and 2016 can be attributed to “justice reinforcement” policy shifts. These policies strive to
use limited prison space for violent and career criminals, move lower-level offenders into less-costly and more-effective alternatives, and invest the savings into programs that reduce recidivism.
Likewise, the SAFE Justice Act of 2015 attempted to reform our justice system in order to maximize the well-being of society. The act attempted to give judges the discretion to choose different sentences in different cases. This allows the system to act more like a market, efficiently allocating punishments and solutions based on the situation. Currently, this is not happening due to the adoption of mandatory minimum sentencing from the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.
According to PoliPlatform, President Donald Trump ran with the policy to delegate the choice of legalization of marijuana to the states. His main goal was to take profit away from drug cartels, but the policy would also aid the cause of lowering the incarceration rate by lowering the amount of arrests made of nonviolent criminals. However, when in office, Trump nominated Senator Jeff Sessions as the Head of the Department of Justice. Sessions takes a hard stance against the legalization of marijuana, and was recently quoted as saying, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
It remains to be seen what stance the Trump administration will take on drug and crime policies. The U.S. can either remain a staunch opponent to all drug use and rehabilitation which would surely contribute to increasing incarceration rates, or adopt a more hands-off drug policy which focuses on aiding people involved with drugs instead of incarcerating them.