Economy the house i live in

Published on December 4th, 2012 | by Rhonda Winter


Why Our Failed War on Drugs was Never Actually about Drugs


Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s new documentary, The House I Live In, examines our nation’s enormous prison industrial complex, and also illustrates why our decades long War on Drugs has never been about drugs at all. Increasing US incarceration rates are largely just about making money.

Over the last four decades, the failed US drug war has cost over a trillion dollars and has produced more than 45 million arrests. This miserable travesty has transformed our country into the world’s largest jailer, and has inflicted enormous destruction upon millions of poor disenfranchised individuals and communities for generations. Yet somehow now drugs are cheaper and more easily accessible today than ever before.

The House I Live In


Jarecki’s compelling documentary captures unbelievable personal stories from many diverse individuals involved in the War on Drugs; the movie also won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. In addition to exploring the profound human rights implications of how our expanding prison industrial complex feeds on the poor and minorities, the film also investigates how political and economic corruption have fueled the drug war for forty years, despite persistent overwhelming evidence that the War on Drugs was always a complete and utter failure.



 • Today, there are more people behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses than were incarcerated for all crimes, violent or otherwise, in 1970.

• In 2009 nearly 1.7 million people were arrested in the U.S. for nonviolent drug charges.

• Between 1973 and 2009, the nation’s prison population grew by 705 percent, resulting in more than 1 in 100 adults behind bars today.

• To return to the nation’s incarceration rates of 1970, America would have to release 4 out of every 5 currently held prisoners.

• The U.S. accounts for 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prison population.

• 1 in every 8 state employees works for a corrections agency.

• It costs an average of $78.95 per day to keep an inmate locked up, more than 20 times the cost of a day on probation.

• In a 2010 survey, 8.9% of Americans over the age of 12 had used illicit drugs in the past month.

• Of the 1,841,182 arrests for drug law violations in 2007, 82.5% were for possession and only 17.5% were for the sale or manufacture of a drug.

Marijuana arrests make up more than half of all the drug arrests in the U.S., and nearly 90% of those are charges for possession only.

• African-Americans make up roughly 13% of the US population and 14% of its drug users. Yet, they represent 56% of those incarcerated for drug crimes.

• Since 1986, though crack and powder cocaine are chemically the same, there has been a 100 to 1 disparity in the sentencing of crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine offenses. This has accounted for a vast disproportion of crack users going to prison over the past 25 years. In 2010, after decades of protest from judges and activists, this disparity was reduced to 18 to 1.


us prison map

 images via “The House I Live In

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About the Author

was raised by wolves, and subsequently has difficulty interacting with other humans; she can also be found on and Twitter.

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