Drugs and Violence
72 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2014 Last revised: 4 Nov 2015
Date Written: March 31, 2014
The war on drugs has increased the United States prison population by tenfold. The foundation for the war on drugs and unparalleled increase in prisoners rely on the premise that drugs and violence are linked. Politicians, media, and scholars continue to advocate this view either explicitly or implicitly. This Article identifies the pervasiveness of this premise, and debunks the link between drugs and violence. It demonstrates that a connection between drugs and violence is not supported by historical arrest data, current research, or independent empirical evidence. That there is little evidence to support the assumption that drugs cause violence is an important insight, because the assumed causal link between drugs and violence forms the foundation of a significant amount of case law, statutes, and commentary. In particular, the presumed connection between drugs and violence has reduced constitutional protections, misled government resources, and resulted in the unnecessary incarceration of a large proportion of non-violent Americans. In short, if drugs do not cause violence — and the empirical evidence discussed in this Article suggests they do not — then America needs to rethink its entire approach to drug policy.
Keywords: drugs, drug policy, violence, violent crime, America, criminal justice, empirical evidence, media, social science, sentencing, prisons, mass incarceration, war on drugs, crime, arrest
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation