Criminal Justice Research
During the late 1980's the United States Government declared a "War on Drugs," which imposed strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. These mandatory sentences were initially imposed for the purposes of thwarting drug traffickers and deterring drug use across America. Since the inception of mandatory drug minimums in 1987 and 1988, incarceration rates for drug offenders have sky rocketed, from 39 percent of the overall prison population in 1988 to 58 percent in 1992 (Tonry, 81-82). The surging prison population means more money is being spent to keep so many people incarcerated. With the great deal of money being spent and the growing number of drug incarcerations, it has been hypothesized that mandatory minimum drug sentences cannot be deemed a success because they cost the government too much money and are not responsible for the decline in drug use across America.
This literature review will specifically look at five research articles in an attempt to affirm this hypothesis.
The first article that will be discussed was written by Michael Tonry (1995) and examined the patterns of drug use amongst youths both before and after the War on Drugs. It was hypothesized that the War on Drugs was an unnecessary action taken by the Government, which was too harsh on American youth; namely African Americans. To show the trends in drug use amongst youths, samples from three different age groups were used: 12-17, 18-25, and 26 and older. The variables measured were alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and cigarettes; the data came in the form of self-reported drug use surveys within the last 30 days. Data was taken from 1975 up until 1991. The data for drug use amongst college students reported using drugs within the past 30 days (as well...