The NAACP is calling for an end to the nation's "flawed drug policies" they say have resulted in heavier enforcement against African Americans, as well as higher incarceration rates.
The call came during the annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when a majority of delegates approved a resolution titled, "A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow." The conference, which is now in its 102nd year, is being held in Los Angeles.
"The NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice and effective law enforcement," says Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NAACP's president and chief executive. "These flawed drug policies that have been mostly enforced in African American communities must be stopped and replaced with evidenced-based practices that address the root causes of drug use and abuse in America."
The resolution sets out to outline "the facts about the failed drug war" and points out that the U.S. spends over $40 billion annually to lock up "low-level drug offenders, mostly from communities of color," according to the group.
African Americans are 13 times more likely to go to jail for a drug-related offense than their Caucasian counterparts, according to the group.
"Studies show that all racial groups abuse drugs at similar rates, but the numbers also show that African Americans, Hispanics and other people of color are stopped, searched, arrested, charged, convicted, and sent to prison for drug-related charges at a much higher rate," says Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP's California chapter. "This dual system of drug-law enforcement that serves to keep African Americans and other minorities under lock and key and in prison must be exposed and eradicated."
The resolution calls for the creation and expansion of rehabilitation and treatment programs, methadone clinics, and other treatment protocols as an alternative to incarceration.
"We know that the war on drugs has been a complete failure because in the 40 years that we've been waging this war, drug use and abuse has not gone down," says Robert Rooks, director of the NAACP's criminal justice program. "The only thing we've accomplished is becoming the world's largest incarcerator, sending people with mental health and addiction issues to prison, and creating a system of racial disparities that rivals Jim Crow policies of the 1960s."