critical race theory, for-profit prisons, mass incarceration, race/racism, school-to-prison pipeline, war on drugs



  1. Fornili, Katherine Smith DNP, MPH, RN, CARN, FIAAN


ABSTRACT: The purpose of this column is to summarize important aspects of the racialized War on Drugs, including (a) the school-to-prison pipeline, (b) the for-profit prison system ("prison industrial complex"), (c) racialized mass incarceration, and (d) the disproportionately negative impact of the War on Drugs on families and communities of color. Analysis of critical race theory (CRT), the study of the relationships between race, racism, and power, will provide a cohesive framework for examining these four aspects. CRT maintains that American laws, including antidiscrimination laws, are structured to maintain White privilege (Alexander, 2010; Capers, 2014; Delgado & Stefancic, 2017; Nyika & Murray-Orr, 2017). Proponents of CRT are committed to progressive race consciousness and view CRT as a mechanism for analyzing and addressing racial inequity (Capers, 2014). We cannot incarcerate our way out of the drug epidemic. The War on Drugs is a war on individuals who experience a treatable medical condition and on the communities in which they reside. It should more properly be called "The War on Our Own People." The failed War on Drugs and the current administration's efforts to revive and strengthen it provide examples of how the dominant society allows, and perhaps even actively promotes, the destruction of minority communities. Addictions nurses object to the conditions that perpetuate the War on Drugs and racialized mass incarceration. We view it our ethical responsibility to advocate for social justice and healthy sociopolitical environments for all members of society, regardless of race, class, or creed.