The survey of 1,000 adults, which was conducted on August 12-13, found that only 4% of Americans believe the United States is winning the “war on drugs,” a term first coined by then-President Richard Nixon in 1971 when he launched his policy initiatives to combat illicit substances .
Eighty-two percent (82%) of Americans say the United States is losing the more than 40 year battle against drugs. Thirteen percent (13%) were undecided.
Since the war on drugs began, the United States has spent over $1 trillion and incarcerated millions, giving us the largest prison population in the world, only to see the drug addiction rate remain steady. Earlier this year, a Huffington Post/YouGov poll found that 53% of Americans believe that the war on drugs isn’t worth the cost.
Radley Balko, a critic of the drug war and author of the new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, says that Americans are finally catching on to the problems with nation’s drug policy.
“I think we’ve seen a clear and dramatic shift just over the last several years,” Balko told United Liberty via e-mail. “And the more the public is made aware of just how the drug war is actually being fought, the more alarmed and outraged they seem to be by what they learn.”
Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced federal criminal justice reforms that will steer prosecutors away from mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenders. He directed prosecutors to reserve the most severe penalties to violent offenders or those involved in gangs or drug cartels.
Similar reforms have been successful at the state-level. For example, Texas has saved taxpayers some $2 billion in prison construction costs due to criminal justice reforms, and they’ve also reduced recidivism (repeat offender) rates.
The war on drugs hasn’t only been costly the United States in terms of money spent. It has also played a rule in the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties and torn apart families. Moreover, thousands — including many innocent people — have lost their lives in what has been a futile effort to stem drug use.