The War on Drugs And its Effect on Recidivism Rates in the United States

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Politics and Government


Michaelene Cox

Mentor Department

Politics and Government


My study will analyze the following question: To what degree has the War on Drugs affected the recidivism rates on those convicted with drug charges? The modern War on Drugs in the United States officially began in 1971 when Richard Nixon proclaimed that the public enemy number one of America was drug abuse. This sparked a social movement that continued on late into the 1980's that called for harsher criminal penalties for drug users. Public attention to the dangers of drugs led to the passage of legislation such as the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. The Controlled Substance Act categorized drugs such as marijuana, LSD, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, and also imposed harsher regulations possession and sales of the substances. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act established mandatory prison sentences for certain drug offenses. This policy led federal and state prison population rates to skyrocket at an alarming rate of over 500 percent. However, critics argue that rehabilitation treatment over incarceration is a more effective method with countering drug use and recidivism rates. To analyze this argument, I will be utilizing the ideal type methodology approach in my research. This approach will be applied as I compare recidivism rates in the United States to The Netherlands. The Netherlands was chosen for the study because it has enacted decriminalization policies in regards to drug use. These policies have often been a result of public activism and ballot initiatives.



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