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United States Conference of Mayors Unanimously Passes Resolution Calling the War On Drugs a Failed Policy Driving Over-Incarceration and Racial Disparities
“The war on drugs — declared 40 years ago this weekend — has been the principal driver of mass incarceration in America,” said U.S. mayors in a resolution adopted on Monday at the United States Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting in Baltimore.
The mayors pointed out that the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the the world, with 2.4 million of its residents in prison or jail, including about 500,000 Americans behind bars for drug law violations — an increase of 1,200 percent since 1980.
In their resolution, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) officially endorsed pending bipartisan federal legislation, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011, sponsored by Virginia Senator Jim Webb and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
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The Act would “take the long-overdue step of creating a national, bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission charged with undertaking a comprehensive, 18-month, top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system and proposing concrete, wide-ranging reforms,” according to the resolution.
Adopted resolutions become the official policy of USCM, which speaks as once voice to promote best practices and the most pressing priorities of our nation’s cities.
“A national criminal justice commission will help identify cost-effective solutions for improving public safety, breaking the cycle of addiction, and keeping families together,” said Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, who offered the resolution that the USCM adopted.
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|Santa Fe, N.M. Mayor David Coss: “We simply cannot afford to continue wasting taxpayer money on failed criminal justice policies”|
”We simply cannot afford to continue wasting taxpayer money on failed criminal justice policies when there are less expensive, more humane, and more effective ways to deal with drugs and crime,” Coss said.
“The U.S. is supposed to be the land of the free but we have more people behind bars than any other country in the world, mostly because of the failed war on drugs,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The 40th anniversary of the failed drug war is a good opportunity to move in a new direction. A national commission would help policymakers develop evidence-based policies that reduce incarceration, save taxpayer money, and improve public safety.”
According to the mayors’ resolution, the Criminal Justice commission will produce recommendations to “reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system … reduce incarceration, reform U.S. drug policy, eliminate racial and gender disparities, improve re-entry efforts, and expand access to substance abuse treatment, mental health services and healthcare — goals that this Conference strongly supports.”
The resolution comes on the heels of the Global Commission on Drug Policy report released on June 2 which calls for a major paradigm shift in how our society deals with drugs, including decriminalization and legal regulation. The report sent a jolt around the world, generating thousands of international media stories.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors’ resolution is available by clicking here [PDF; see page 54].
Full text of the resolution as passed by the United States Conference of Mayors: