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Smoke and Mirrors: The war on Drugs and The Politics of Failure

NCJ Number
D Baum
Date Published
411 pages
This book examines America's war on drugs, declares it a failure, and attempts to explain why it is failing.
The book claims that, after three decades of increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are more easily obtainable, drug potencies are greater and drug barons are richer than ever. The war on drugs costs the government more than the Commerce, Interior, and State departments combined. The drug war clogs the courts to the point of breakdown. It keeps more Americans in Federal prison for drug crimes than were in for all crimes put together in 1980. It criminalizes a generation of African-American men; this is the main reason a third of all black males in their 20s are under correctional control -- jail, prison, probation, or parole. The book is based on research and more than 200 interviews. Persons interviewed, or whose memoirs were consulted, are listed in a preface in the order in which they appear in the narrative. They range from the first woman prosecuted for prenatal drug use to a California millionaire killed by police in a mistaken marijuana raid to several attorneys general. The book attempts to show how the country got to where it is in the effort to solve drug problems and describes initiatives by California and Arizona to adopt other policies. Notes, bibliography, index