Land of the Free: Prison Reform Following the War on Drugs

Megan Tingley


ince its beginnings in 1971, the war on drugs has been largely unsuccessful in reducing drug use. Instead, it has had many unintended consequences, one of which is a huge increase in the federal prison population over the past 40 years. Despite making up only five percent of the world population, the U.S. is home to 25 percent of its prisoners. Since the 1970s, the prison population in the U.S. has skyrocketed due to the implementation of War on Drugs policies. The main reason for the failure of the War on Drugs can be attributed in part to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Implemented as a part of the Anti- Drug Abuse Act of 1986, these one-size-fits-all policies require a certain punishment based on the amount and type of drug in possession without allowing for flexibility based on context. 

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