The War on Drugs: The Prison Industrial Complex

The War on Drugs: The Prison Industrial Complex

1999, Drugs  -   50 Comments
Ratings: 8.28/10 from 36 users.

The War on Drugs: The Prison Industrial ComplexThe war on drugs has been going on for more than three decades. Today, nearly 500,000 Americans are imprisoned on drug charges. In 1980 the number was 50,000. Last year $40 billion in taxpayer dollars were spent in fighting the war on drugs.

As a result of the incarceration obsession, the United States operates the largest prison system on the planet, and the U.S. nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska.

Try to imagine the Drug Enforcement Administration erecting razor wire barricades around two states to control crime and you'll get the picture. According to the U.S. Dept of Justice, the number of offenders under age 18 imprisoned for drug offenses increased twelve-fold from 1985 to 1997. The group most affected by this propensity for incarceration is African-Americans. From 1985 to 1997, the percentage of African-American young people put in prison increased from 53 to 62 percent.

Today, 89 percent of police departments have paramilitary units, and 46 percent have been trained by active duty armed forces. The most common use of paramilitary units is serving drug-related search warrants, which usually involve no-knock entries into private homes.

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50 Comments / User Reviews

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  1. Colleen Farrell

    I wish this documentary could be aired on US television. I learned a lot from it, and I consider myself well-educated. Millions of Americans like me have no clue just how messed up this "war on drugs" really is. We know it's stupid that kids get locked up for pot, etc., but the full extent of the corruption, incompetence and waste of lives and money is really shocking.

  2. dave parent

    The war is ridiculous.

  3. Rachel

    People on drugs arrested for child abuse on a fetus...what? And no help and people have report like SW who should be helping them.

  4. Rachel

    Wow this is so messed up.

  5. Rachel

    It's so sad how so many people are in jail for drugs. Drug addicts are people to they have a disease and they need help and treatment not jail, jail only makes stuff worse.

  6. conford

    I am a 58 year old white male from South Africa, and I cried when I saw this documentary. It's Heartbreaking when ordinary people don't wake up, open their eyes and see the injustice in all spheres of life. It's the citizens of the world that should stop watching mainstream media propaganda. The citizens of the world (not one world order!) can change the world for the better. Don't ever believe that politicians will, or want to, change the world for the better.

  7. b1arygar1r

    what a ****** justice system america has on drugs.the way yous are treating addict barbaric and you talk about human rights and what other countries do.thank **** a live in scotland or i would probably be doing 100yrs in prison over there for the amount of time ive been caught with drugs etc

  8. joedsavage

    Watched 24 minutes of this and concluded the US government is creating crime on All levels.Basically these drug units are free to do whatever they want with blessings from the "system." This is sickening.This government needs a good ten cent enema right away.This crap went on in nazi Germany--youth ratting on family,friends,etc. so as to be rewarded for "helping" the government.Because these units are not paid directly by any municipality---who controls them??? Nice isn't it? This country--because of BS government,is really in sad shape.Just thought of something else regarding this drug thing--those units seize vehicles from supposed offenders right? Now,don't you think that person will be mighty tempted to commit another crime for money to get another vehicle?? It's endless the s--t they're causing.Makes a lot of people wonder about living in this country anymore--plus throw in all the other corrupt government involvements and what do you have? Pathetic.

    1. Donald Sheldon

      This election leaves me feeling exactly as you say. Where to go?

  9. MoolaMails

    The prison industrial complex is reliant on drug users. Why put harmless marijuana users in prison? because its big buisness.

  10. Josh Sisouphanthong

    Does anyone know what book that guy is always referencing to?

  11. craigpurcell

    No knock policies are undermining freedom & liberty in America. Dismantle the paramilitary now ! Must see movie as we are misallocating valuable taxpayer resources as a country when we need to figure out how to compete globally.

  12. bememberme

    I am writing a lesson to address this subject with high school students. It seems to be taboo to talk about these things to youth. Just say no, and call it good. Does anyone know of some good materials for educating youth about the bad things government is doing? I am talking about the same content, but simplified for lower reading levels. Not just the prison industrial complex, but the messing around in other countries, supporting the global drug trade.

    1. Donald Sheldon

      Show this documentrary to them.

  13. O-J McMinn

    The war on drugs is a scam. It is perpetuated by greed, corruption and racism and for the sake of society it has to stop. Nowadays there are powerful vested interests who want the drug war to continue.

    If reform is ever going to happen people need to become vocal, law makers need to be made aware that a large percentage of voters are dissatisfied with current drug policy and demand decriminalization so that drug use becomes purely a health issue. The savings made from not having to arrest and prosecute drug users could free up funds that would allow many more hardcore drug addicts to get treatment.

  14. Cas

    From the day the racist right wing and their confederate armies was defeated, they have forever locked on eternal war on Blacks in every sphere of America institutions, where these white people have influence or voting power they will direct policies that inflict the most misery to black people. Marijuana policy is the perfect example, a plant where in some developed countries can be smoked in public bars, here in American tens of thousands upon thousands of mostly blacks are imprisoned for it....Before you vote on a policy, the question is who does it benefit or worse who does it hurt. I think for right wing America, when it comes to Blacks....they seem to care WHO IT HURTS MORE THAN WHO IT BENEFITS. Sadly these morally corrupt/soulless beings are calling themselves HUMAN.

    1. Jamie

      It's not so much black and white no more it's rich and poor.Blackes because of past racism and more likely to be more poor in worse nebourhoods they get harrased and set up and many other thing by the police.But the so called ellite don't give a **** about anyone except there famillys and other ellite criminal scum bags.We sit in jail when are governments are the worlds biggest grug dealers and weapons dealers.They sell to countrys and even make sure theres has alot to put people in jail giving judges,lawyers,police,jail gards probation and parol officers and many others jobs.I'm Canadian and no like all countrys we are corrupt also,but for America the biggest dealers of drugs weapons and how nows what else is the CIA.Afganistan was almost dry of Heroin because the Taliban was very striked if people were caught growing poppys.Then 5% of the worlds H now 95% with America helping and saying if we don't the Taliban will.They can use bombs and muder innocent people but can't bomb or burn all poppy crops,bull **** it's all money weather H our oil.Karzis brother is heavily involved in the H game.But I care not except children doing it,but they send it to poor areas in America and other places caring less how ODs as long as they can arrest the poor and harrase them all.I've been there I know,and through lots of study and other things I know America jails people and calls them criminals for something they holesale.

    2. BzyLzy

      Burn the poppy fields? Hell no...we are in Afghanistan (again) to protect and export them! The year after our arrival resulted in a record breaking bumper crop of poppies. Meanwhile heroin addiction is skyrocketing in the US. Interesting coincidence wouldn't you say?
      Not long ago mainstream news reported that Senator Mitch McConnell's father-in-law's cargo ship was detained, searched where officials (in some other country) found a cache of cocaine! on board! Could this explain how dope is getting in to the US?
      It makes sense that top officials in our Government are some of the the biggest drug cartels; they are fully insulated and protected from prosecution!
      Ackkk, what do I know? I'm just a piss-ant in a sea of sharks! At least for now, right or wrong, I can legally express my thoughts, opinions and personal beliefs about this I just did!
      Should I stick that in my pipe and smoke it, or do you want to? LOL

    3. Berry Muhl

      "From the day the racist right wing and their confederate armies was
      defeated, they have forever locked on eternal war on Blacks in America.."

      Do you even realize how bigoted that makes YOU sound?

      There is more racism in the LEFT wing than in the right wing. The welfare state is racist. Abortion is racist. The soft bigotry of low expectations is racist.

      Get a clue.

      "Before you vote on a policy, the question is who does it benefit or worse who does it hurt."

      Exactly. Think about whom abortion hurts. Think about whom the welfare state hurts. Why do blacks immigrating to this country from Africa do much better in the market than blacks who have been raised here? Because they don't have the entitlement mindset encouraged by the LIBERALS.

  15. Michael Hoevenaar

    wow youre a bad person. Where is the love. This world is so dark anymore

  16. ookeylove

    God knows your heart and now the world knows. breath and think about what your saying "throw away the key" Only a white man from the south would say those words. be blessed.

  17. Joe Plumber

    Heartbreaking and even though my sister works in a prison, I did not realize that 60% of the population was in for "drugs" wink wink.... So many more woman too -- partially for population control as strange as that might sound if you are not familiar with One World Govt Agenda.

    Just like Viet Nam War, the Afghanistan war increases heroin/drugs on our streets by design to weaken everyone except the Government Drug Dealers on top.

    The corporate profits don't tell the story. The story is about suppressing people. That is the real Power that is being enjoyed by the Globalists. Just check out all of the empty FEMA Prison camps (google). The War On Drugs is about to accelerate further into a war on Americans in General. Rise up and stop the One World Govt Agenda with Obama right now as head of the UN which most people do not realize.....

    1. artsychic

      not to mention the 9 billion harper in canada needs for new prisons. They are creating new laws and legislation as we speak that you won't even know about. They are actually talking about bring back public flogging in Canada. They have asked on websites how people would feel about guillotines and there is legislation in the u.s. to bring it back. They tell you that they are doing it because these inmates might want to donate their organs. They make money off of everything...but there is a deeper agenda..depopulation and total control.

    2. bitrat

      Yet it's encouraging to see how many countries are decriminalizing personal quantities of drugs, and perhaps just because of the economy here in the US things may change as well - look at all the cities and counties that are trying to license marijuana production (in states where medical MJ is avaliable) both as an aid to quality control and as a much needed source of revenue.....eventually many substances may be available in a clinical setting as it will both save the cities money and reduce the rampant corruption and disrespect of law enforcement....let's hope so!

  18. victor

    I felt sick watching the program...what a shame making money from jailing your own people, how the hell these rich lawmakers sleep at night
    America wake up...terrorist killed over two thousand 9/11 not all u.s citizens but you went and still are at war because of it but your politicians have killed and done much more damage in the name and for the love of money with pen and paper,
    what you gonna do about it.

    1. reedsh2

      actually if you look more into it, the American government commited the heinous acts of 9/11 and framed a raggedy group of islam terrorists who didn't even want to take responsibility for the attack. The war is built on lies only to be able to take control over middle-eastern governments to instill a central bank in all nations.

  19. Dalton

    WTF, entrapment is illegal...

    1. reedsh2

      not in Florida. when i was 17 someone the police hired posed as a student and asked all sorts of students for drugs but he had an excellent back story and actually tricked me into believing he was a nice guy and we were friends. then i sold him a gram of pot on 2 different occassions and before i knew it i was ambushed by the SWAT team in my own neighborhood in broad daylight

  20. Dalton

    Steve, you are not taking into considerations other peoples perspectives on life...You probably don't know anything about drugs, so you can't judge anyone. Besides you can't f@#$ someone over for what society has made them. You should think about what you said, maybe read a developmental psychology book, and then think about whether or not you can judge a person for drug use. Lighten up.

  21. Ian Peach

    I would almost be prouder to tell people My son was in the Mafia than to tell them He was a district attorney

  22. logic

    Only got 15 mins into the doc and was totally disgusted by the way the police f*** people over, in my country Scotland btw that s*** is known as entrapment if a police officer offers you drugs (any kind) you cant get done (charged) for taking it. To someone not from America just seems like standard Americas doing what the f*** they want quite ironic land of the free but has the highest prison population rate in the world. I think Scotland laws and prison systems are a joke but take comfort in knowing it could be worst. Good game unlucky Americans.

  23. Steve

    Give me a break. DON'T SELL DRUGS and you won't have these problems. Get a job and act like a normal person. It doesn't matter if you are black or white, green or yellow. Don't break the law and you won't go to jail. You know what you should get 15 years for a vial of crack. You should be 80 years. How's that. They need to be taught a lesson and America needs to wake up. Enough with these weak and soft liberal documentaries. Lock em throw away the key.

    1. artsychic

      the government put the drugs on the street in the first place and create the economy and the powerlessness in people that make them feel hopeless and helpless so they resort to such things. It goes far deeper than your little mind can possibly comprehend. Believe me steven..they will have laws to profit from you in the not too distant a debt? How about a nice labor camp? they are already in the u.s. just waiting for some ignorant slug like you that wants to blame everyone but himself for the state of the country.......good luck with that're going to need it...i hope you have a strong back.

    2. Jamie

      Your the one they should lock up scum bag,shows how little you know.I don't think it's about race because are governments care less about any of us,but it's not put in rich hoods it's put in very poor and even middle class hoods were there is more people with dark skin.It's the same with jobs African Americans are much less likely even with laws put in place to act like they want to change things but are much more likely to be unemployed than a white our even asian person.No matter race the best man for that job should get it.Unlike Jews that sufferd in WW2 Blacks and latinos and others that sufferd as much our more don't get cry money from Germany and America and others for the crimes and suffering they went through.But even white people were slaves Irish people were done wrong and many others in history the Armenians don't get nothing only Jews WHY?

    3. Jamie

      Steve you one evil mother f er,they need to lock people like you up and trough away the key.Punk.

    4. Pablo Don

      LOL! You either didn't watch a minute of this eye-opening documentary or you got a severe case of the Stockholm Syndrome. I suspect the first, but it's probably both.

    5. theadamie

      how do you feel about murderers and rapists getting shortened sentences because our prisons are over-populated?
      It's bankrupting our country, corrupting the police and causing more crime.

    6. Rachel

      wow you don't understand addiction at all. Addiction is an illness, they need treatment not jail, you are so ignorant. You try coming off a drug and then tell me that it's just that easy to stop using.

  24. James

    This is full on sh%t, I'm currently facing charges for weed posses/supply 3 pounds & use dangerous weapon to avoid lawful apprehension... I have priors for advance cultivation for comercial purpose (weed again). Including the time I have already spent in before granted bail on a section 32 i'm looking at 2 years, I live in Australia. This mind you is without making any deals with the crown/DPP, because snitching where i'm from has a much better chance of getting you killed than prison does!!!

    After the short period of time in prison, i'm in a position now to think before getting involved in drugs again... I have had a drug problem since I was 12, i'm 25 now. through out the years starting off with weed then moving onto speed, X, LSD, Cocain, and on occasions heroin and Ice. My trial has dragged on nearly a year now and I've stayed clean and drug free since getting arrested, through the help of treatment I found on my own accord whilst out on bail that could not be obtained inside and strick bail conditions. I'm even half way through completing my HSC equiverlant in a program at University.

    Locking people up for a third of there life is a complete joke! Drugs run rambit through the system anyway, so all they do is move the problem from one place to another in a bid to raise revenue. Besides that the longer you lock someone up for the less chance they have to get back on there feet, plus adjusting to life outside isn't as easy as you may think after a long lagging. All the system has done in that time has given them an advanced criminal education so to speak. You put a group of criminally minded men together for long enough that spend all day talking and all night thinking is only shooting yourself in the foot. The amount you can learn in there even in a short amount of time is unbelieveable and forget Facebook or Myspace... If your a crim it's the best place for networking. Plus it doesn't take long for any support you have on the outside to die off too. So your mentality changes if it hadn't already to f@%K it, you get out allot smarter and believe you have no other choice but crime to support yourself and chances are prison has made you a 1000 times more violent and connected. Anyone with an IQ over 70, can use everything they have learnt to there advantage. They are now no longer petty street crims, they are hardend criminals more than likely connected with prison gangs and hate one thing more than anything else, POLICE!

    Obviously the war on drugs isn't working, and while everyday american's let in some cases just unfortunate people trying to support there family the only way they can or trying to mask a painfull history with drug abuse go to prison for crazy sentences when there's a possiblity for rehabilitation, the people in power are going to continue to exploit the poor and uneducated as a means of making profit and eventually while you think F@%k them (junkies/dealers) It's going to strike close to your heart when a father, mother, bother, sister, son, daughter will be behind bars, and when you realise that they are people too, it's too late. My question is why, when there are alturnatives that work... Take my case for example

    1. Jamie

      I live in Canada and we don't face no were near the time Americans do.To get life here you almost always have to be guilty of 1st or secound degree murder.But are government is getting more like America as time goes by.And from expereance I know every thing you said is true.In Canada being a RAT is life threatening and if you lived a life even after you change how can you look in a mirror after being what you hated and stoods for your entire life.Prison like you said makes people more criminaly inclined not better.

  25. Omar

    Wow this country is really f****** up!! something needs to be done about this because I don't see how someone who rapes a child can receive less punishment than someone who was some what associated with drugs. How can a mother who is addicted to drugs be sent to jail and not even be offered treatment?! This just shows that the government would do every and anything to make money no matter the expense to the citizens. There needs to be more honest and more intelligent people in office because its obvious that they don't know the effects of what these laws are doing to society

  26. aaron

    A lot of Americans are up in arms. Drug policy is the number one topic at my school which is a community college with students of all ages. People are pissed. WA VOTERS SIGN YES I-1068

  27. laura

    jason (10/21/09) - i don't think the point is to say that parents shouldn't be put in jail. that is obviously bs. however, when you take a step back to look at the bigger picture and see the full spectrum of the consequences of criminalizing the non violent use of a controlled substance - hopefully one comes to the conclusion that the punishment is far worse than the crime. is it really right to be labelled a felon for life, experience extreme difficulty obtaining and keeping employment, housing, gov't assistance and struggle (even harder) to raise children because you were busted for possession (and maybe distribution - but not necessarily on a large scale) of a controlled substance? and then the children of these (ex)convicts have an uphill battle ahead of them, because.... why, exactly? it perpetuates the cycle of a "criminal race" - especially considering the fact that youths of color are busted and convicted of criminal drug charges in a disproportionate rate to their white counterparts even though minority youths are no more likely to use drugs than caucasian youths....

    i'm not crying conspiracy here, i'm just saying - eventually we need to sit down and really think about whether criminalizing drug use is an effective way to eradicate it. i think the answer to that question is obvious... apparently, though, it isn't.

    i also disagree with the other jason, and hope his comment about opening fire on law enforcement was one of exaggeration and jest. officer friendly is not big brother. change the laws they're paid (by us) to enforce - don't punish them for enforcing the laws our democracy has put into place.

  28. Jason

    It makes me sick, I mean I can totally see why people don't care what the government has to say anymore. I think if you know that your going to be put in jail for 20 or more years, you might as well shoot as many enforcement officers as possible, because at least you'll get to die quick, and your life will not be ruined from a felony. I don't think this will ever stop until, we have an all out war.

  29. Stan

    This doc is broadcast by Dutch channel VPRO, and was part of the series "De Nieuwe Wereld", the predecessor of "Tegenlicht".

  30. george

    A nation of informants(rats) and police
    The land of the free and the home of the brave

  31. Jason

    I didnt like the twist in the later parts of the movie about children of convicts, it seems like they are trying to say that putting parents in prison is wrong...which is total bs.
    However overall the documentary is pretty damn scary and the sentances are just draconian, i would be up in arms about this if i were american.

  32. Vlatko

    I think the first few minutes are in Dutch, but the rest is in English.

    Thanks Graham.

  33. Graham

    Hey Vlat just so you know this isn't in english

  34. del

    This is crazy what is happening. The is a bogus war and we as citizens need to get involved and be heard.