Today is Martin Luther King Day, a holiday to celebrate one of the great Civil Rights leaders in U.S. history. And while America has made progress on many of the issues King fought for, there are other issues that still need to be addressed. And one of the biggest violations of American civil rights is the War on Drugs.
Here are five ways the War on Drugs violates civil rights.
1. Students Don’t Have Due Process
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the fourth amendment to the constitution, the one that involves unreasonable search and seizures, does not apply to high school students. They ruled in a 6-3 decision that if a teacher suspects a student may be using drugs for any reason, the school can drug test them. There’s no standard of proof or anything, just suspicion alone is enough to lead to a drug test.
2. Unemployment Benefits
20 states in America will deny someone unemployment benefits not only if someone admits to using drugs, but even if they were suspected of using drugs by their previous employer, even if there’s no proof they actually did. Sorry, you’re guilty until proven innocent when it comes to unemployment benefits.
3. Property Seizures
You’ve probably read in the past about police seizing a person’s property, possessions, money and other things while making drug arrests. And police officers don’t have to give it back. Even if they don’t find any incriminating evidence or a person is found innocent, police can still keep a person’s property they seize. Once again, guilty until proven innocent.
4. Incarceration Rate
Before the War on Drugs, the United States had about 200,000 people in prisons. Today, that number is 2.3 million. And more than half of those people are nonviolent drug offenders. Not only are people forced into prison for victimless drug crimes, but they also are often unable to re-enter society after their release because they’re not able to access jobs or housing, which can lead them right back into a life of crime.
5. Disproportionate Racial Enforcement
Another issue is the disproportionate number of minorities arrested for drug related offenses. The government estimates around 12 percent of drug users are black, and yet 40 percent of drug related arrests are made on black people. And black people who are arrested for drug crimes are also more likely to receive harsher sentences than white people who are charged with the same crimes. Clearly this is fair and equal enforcement of the law.