The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986: A Policy Analysis Laura Sandoval California State University, Long Beach School of Social Work May 2013
Introduction • Policy was designed to address rising crime and drug rates. • In 1982, 12.2% of Americans ages 12 and over reported use in the past 30 days • In 1986, there were 34.1 million estimated crimes nationally; 5.5 million were violent • Policy-makers believed there was a link between drug use and violent crime. • For those who commit violent crimes, 46% reported drug use in the previous month, 28% reported being under the influence of drugs at the time of the crime, and 12% reported committing the crime in order to get money for drugs
Social Work Relevance • Since the policy's implementation, groups have been negatively and disproportionately affected by the policy. • African-Americans • Latinos • Women • Social workers should be invested in seeing social justice within the criminal justice system and towards those who use drugs, as we understand drug misuse is also a physical health addiction and problem.
Literature Review • Since the criminalization of drugs, American policy has alternated between two philosophical approaches to reducing the prevalence of mind-altering substances: • Supply-reduction: Policies that aim to reduce the supply of drugs in America. This includes policies focused on stopping the ability of providers from distributing drugs to users. • Demand-reduction: Policies that aim to reduce the demand for drugs in America. This includes policies focused on stopping users from buying drugs from providers for personal use.
Literature Review Examples of Supply-Reduction Policies: • 1917: The 18th Amendment • The Prohibition of alcohol • 1951: The Boggs Act • Imposes the first mandatory minimum sentences for drug distributors and users. Examples of Demand-Reduction Policies: • 1966: Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act • Those with addictions can seek treatment in lieu of incarceration. • 1970: Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act • Repeals Boggs Act and allows for offenders to seek treatment
Methods • This analysis used a modified version of David Gil’s policy analysis framework as outlined in Unravelling Social Policy. • A purposeful sampling of documents was used to review the issues, values, objectives, effects, and implications of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. • Primary sources include the Anti-Drug Abuse Act legislation, government hearings, and reports. • Secondary sources include books, academic papers, peer-reviewed articles, and policy analyses.
Policy Analysis The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 • Imposes mandatory minimum sentences on those convicted of possession of illegal drugs • Sentenced vary based upon the type of illegal drug, the amount of the drug, and whether or not the individual had been charged with a previous drug offense. • Punishments range from 5 years to life imprisonment.
Policy Analysis Strengths of Policy • Isolates the impacts of drug users on greater society (intent of the policy) Challenges of Policy • Disproportional impacts on African-American communities, Latinos, and women. Also negatively impacts the communities they are from. • Incarcerates even low-level users for many years. • Not resulted in reduction of drug-related violent crime • Prison growth and related costs have skyrocketed • Takes away rights from judges to implement punishments on individual basis
Recommendations • Eliminate sentencing disparities in policy that allow for disproportionate punishments (such as the 100:1 ratio). • Public should recognize drug use as personal and public health issue, not just criminal justice issue. • Social workers should make creative use of media to impact public opinion to incur support for policy change. • Policy makers may want to implement harm- reduction philosophies in future drug policies to assess and address problematic drug use.
References Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, Pub. L. 99-570. (1986). Beck, A., Gilliard, D. K., Greenfeld, L. A., Harrell, C. W., Hester, T., Jankowski, L., Morton, D. C., Snell, T. L., & Stephan, J. J. (1993). Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991. Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, Pub. L. 91-513. (1970). Dorsey, T. L. & Middleton, P. (2008). Drug-Related Crime Facts. NCJ 165148. Dumont, Brockmann, Dickman, Alexander, & Rich, 2012 Eddy, M. (2003). War on Drugs: Legislation in the 108th Congress and Related Developments. Brief for Congress. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. Flanagan, T. J. and Jamieson, K. M., eds., Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics - 1987. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC: USCPO, 1988. Hawdon, J. E. (2001). The Role of Presidential Rhetoric in the Creation of a Moral Panic: Reagan, Bush, and the war on drugs. Deviant Behavior, 22(5), 419-445. Lenora, L., Luthra, N., Verma, A., Small, D., Allard, P., & Levingston, K. (2005). Caught in the Net: The Impact of Drug Policies on Women and Families. ACLU. Retrieved from http://www.aclu.org/files/images/asset_upload_file431_23513.pdf Lynch, M. (2012). Theorizing the Role of the ‘War on Drugs’ in US Punishment. Theoretical Criminology, 16(2), 175-199. doi:10.1177/1362480612441700 National Center for Health Statistics. (2012). Health, United States, 2011: With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, Maryland. Pub. L. No. 82-255, ch. 666, 65 Stat. 767, repealed 1970 Rehnquist, W. (2005). What the Experts Say. Retrieved from http://www.famm.org/ Spiess, M. & Fallow, D. (2000). ONDCP: Drug Policy Information Clearing House. Fact Sheet. Washington: DC. Drug Policy Information Clearing House. U.S. Const. amend. XVIII, repealed 1933