In 1981, Ronald Reagan was elected President, marking the beginning of a new era: The War on Drugs. Proceeded by the War on Crime, both issues were treated by the Reagan administration as the Federal Government’s primary concerns. The constant battle between the Federal Government and drug offenders assisted in the outbreak of mass incarceration, created an outlet for the racial disparity in American society, and caused a massive increase in Federal spending. Despite the Government’s continuous cycle of trial and error in seeking a solution to the War on Drugs, there is little evidence that any significant progress towards “winning” has been made. Until just recently, Congress continued to suggest treatments that history has tried and watched fail.
By stiffening laws that limit drug use and sales, lengthening mandatory Federal sentences, and altering welfare policy to exclude felons, the Government has sent the United States down a path towards making drug crime part of daily life in many urban communities. The most productive way to fight the drug-related crime in the United States is not with additional laws targeting drug users and dealers, but with carefully constructed social welfare policies and eradication of regulations that disproportionately affect minorities and those in poverty. Following the destruction of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) during the Carter administration, Reagan started federal crime control programs to take its place. This decision demonstrated the connection between the Reagan administration’s negative opinion of Welfare programs and public housing, and crime control. Early decisions to focus Law Enforcement efforts on low-income, majority African-American areas, later contributed to the racial disparity in drug-crime arrest rates. The increasing national fear of street gangs was not lessened by Government warnings and new regulations, and even Democrats joined Reagan to support the “war.
” In 1984, a new act was passed that changed the way America treated drug offenders and felons of all kind. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 passed 406-16 in Congress, and included several dramatic changes. The act reinstated the federal death penalty, ended the federal parole system, and allowed judges to detain defendants indefinitely while setting bail. The Crime Control Act also instituted a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for the use of a firearm in connection with a violent crime, and fifteen years on the third “strike.”