7 Hastings Race & Poverty L.J. 353 (2010)
Can These Bones Live - A Look at the Impacts of the War on Drugs on Poor African-American Children and Families

handle is hein.journals/hasrapo7 and id is 361 raw text is: Can These Bones Live?
A Look at the Impacts of the War on Drugs on Poor
African-American Children and Families
NEKIMA LEVY-POUNDS*
Introduction
It is no secret that there is currently an incarceration crisis in
America. A Pew Report issued in February of 2008 proved one of
our worst fears: The United States now has the highest rate of
incarceration in the world.' In fact, according to the report, one in
every one hundred adult Americans is presently incarcerated.2                 One
has to look no further than the last twenty years to identify the source
of the boom in our nation's prison population, namely, the war on
drugs. The war on drugs began in the mid-1980s when Congress
decided to get tough on crime by imposing lengthy mandatory
minimum prison terms and harsh sentencing guidelines on those
involved in trafficking illicit drugs.3 The original premise behind the
* Associate Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and the
director of the Community Justice Project, a civil rights legal clinic. I first give honor to God for
being who He is in my life. I want to thank my family for their encouragement and unwavering
support. I would also like to thank my colleagues at St. Thomas for their feedback, generous
support and encouragement. Special thanks goes to Artika Tyner, Virgil Wiebe, and Carolyn
Ryberg for their feedback and insights on this article. I would also like to thank my current and
former research assistants, Lenora White and Lindsay Turner, for their wonderful research
support and commitment to this work. Finally, I want to thank the law student editors of the
Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal for all of their hard work and insights on this article.
1. THE PEW CTR. ON THE STATES, ONE IN 100: BEHIND BARS IN AMERICA 2008 5 (2008),
available at http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadcdFiles/80I5PCTSPrisonO8_FINAL_2
-I-I_FORWEB.pdf. Disparagingly, in addition to having the highest incarceration rate in the
world, the United States also boasts the largest prison population in the world. Id. With 2.3
million adult Americans behind bars, there are 800,000 more Americans behind bars than
Chinese. Id. Equally disparagingly, the Pew Report figures do not take into account the number
of juveniles currently in detention centers, which means that the total number of incarcerated
Americans is higher still. Id.
2. Id. at 6.
3. See BARBARA VINCENT & PAUL HOFER, FED. JUDICIAL CTR., THE CONSEQUENCES OF
MANDATORY MINIMUM PRISON TERMS: A SUMMARY OF RECENT FINDINGS 4 (1994), available

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