Eugene Jarecki's The House I Live In powerfully exposes disillusionment from the long waged war on drugs. What's more the exposure is from the story's everyday key actors: cops, judges, and prison guards. What's more the pain is not monopolized by the families and inmates, the key actors note the system's shortcomings. 40 years and a TRILLION (twelve zeros) dollars later, the US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated people. The are untenable realities.
I find it confounding, and perhaps it's because I've been studying the prison industrial complex as an activist that people can be unaware that there is still a war on drugs. Do yourself a favor and perform a quick google search on "war on drugs". There are links to US government site, headlines from CNN and Huffington Post decrying it's a failure, and so much more. You probably won't get into the parts about how the multitude of policing organizations get to keep the cash and goods from seizures or the part about systematic racism. For the details may want to look at Christian Parenti's Lockdown America or Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
All is not nigh, there is a change in the tides, and Americans are actively organizing to bring about systemic change in the war on drugs. The current battleground is marijuana legalization where not only are states expressing their right to self-govern such as in Colorado and Washington, but also nationally folks are also in favor the federal government not intervening in these practices. Time will tell whether the veneer of the war of drugs is fading and we witness a contraction in the abhorrent prison system.
Can you imagine a world where more money is spent on prisons than education? Look no further than California where state prison spending outstripped higher education. As someone that has worked on and advocated for educational access for the better part of a decade I am dumbstruck that we could let this happen anywhere in the world let alone in our country. Aren't we the land of the free? Home of the brave? Home of the free-market is where I am ashamed my Wells Fargo mortgage means that my banking is helping invest in the future of private prisons. How could it turn out that the American Dream I have ended up living can be no more easily disentangled than all the leverage that ultimately brought down Bear Stearns? Where do I begin to improve upon where I find the world today?
One way I have been helping make a difference is by volunteering with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO). We're advocating for educational access inside the prison system. That's where 2.3 Million people, who are by-in-large are undereducated and face serious challenges to re-enter society prepared to be contributing members.
If you agree with these ideas, your help is needed. Take action through the following organizations, and spread the word: