Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker has previously taken to Twitter to call the War on Drugs a “failure,” but he used a different social media platform this weekend to further criticize America’s approach to drug control.
In a question-and-answer session on the site Reddit, one user asked Booker to respond to the fact that “blacks make up just 14% of all drug users but half of those in prison for drug offenses,” Booker gave a long and thought-out reaction on the reasons the American approach to drug policy has failed so many people.
The so-called war, Booker argued, keeps in place a system of racial bias that negatively impacts communities of color. “I can’t accept that facts like this one do anything but demonstrate the historic and current biases in our criminal justice system,” he said:
Blacks make up less than 15% of our New Jersey’s population but make up more than 60% of our prison population. I can’t accept that facts like this one do anything but demonstrate the historic and current biases in our criminal justice system. …People should not see these facts and this discussion as an indictment of any one race, sector, or occupation, it should be seen as a call to all of us to do the difficult things to make a change because this isn’t a “black” problem this is an American problem.
The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence. We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential. I see the BILLIONS AND BILLIONS of dollars being poured into the criminal justice system here in New Jersey and it represents big overgrown government at its worst. We should be investing dollars in programs and strategies that work not just to lower crime but work to empower lives.
It anguishes me how we seem to be so content with national and state recidivism rates of around 60% and how a staggering number of young black men are involved in the criminal justice system.
After offering his criticism, Booker went on to outline solutions he’s pushed in Newark, and others he’d like to see continue. The first program he mentioned focuses on fatherhood and tries to coach men into being responsible parents. That involves stopping drug use. But Booker explained he has had trouble securing funding for the program. “I work to raise money for it every year,” he said. “Shouldn’t we be investing in programs like these instead of pouring more and more dollars into programs that fail to achieve societal goals, perpetuate racial disparities and bleed countless tax dollars?”
The mayor also suggested court reform, as well job programs, drug treatment, and legal assistance for drug offenders as a method of helping people stay out of jail. Lastly, Booker pushed for mentor programs — of which he has always been a strong advocate — to help kids never start drugs in the first place. “It takes 4 hours a month to mentor a child,” Booker wrote, “the amount of time most watch TV in a day.”