Trump goes predictably full Nixon/Reagan on drug policy. Expect a backlash in the future given the racial implications of drug policy and the racially controversial nature of the Trump presidency.. The next Democratic President will likely be the furthest left the US has ever had. Just like Bill Clinton seems rather conservative by today’s standards, the next Democratic President will likely make Obama seem comparatively right-wing.
By Lois Beckett
Shauna Barry-Scott remembers the moment she felt the American fever for mass incarceration break. It was an August morning in 2013, and she was in a federal prison in the mountains of West Virginia. She remembers crowding into the TV room with the other women in their khaki uniforms. Everyone who could get out of their work shifts was there, waiting. Good news was on the way, advocates had told them. Watch for it.
Some of her fellow inmates were cynical: it seemed like millions of rumors of reform had swept through the federal prison system to only then dissolve. Barry-Scott did not blame them, but she was more hopeful.
At age 41, she had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for possession with the intent to distribute 4.5 ounces of crack cocaine. “Think of a 12oz can of Coke, cut that in a third,” she explains. “And that’s what I got 20 years for.” The sentence made no sense to her. Barry-Scott’s son had been murdered in 1998, and the men charged with shooting him to death had to serve less time than she did – six and seven years each, she says.
But the amount of drugs in her possession had triggered a mandatory minimum sentence, part of a now-infamous law passed in 1986 to impose punitive sentences for certain offenses amid a rising panic over drug abuse. In 1980, some 25,000 people were incarcerated in federal prisons. By 2013 after four decades of America’s war on drugs, there were 219,000. Yet this population was just a small fraction of the estimated 2.3 million Americans locked up not only in federal prisons, but also in state facilities and local jails.