Russell Simmons Leads Cyber March Vs. War on Drugs

By Sarah Beller 04/08/13

The Def Jam magnate urges people around the world to join tomorrow's "cyber march" against US drug policy.

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Tomorrow Russell Simmons is leading a "cyber march" on Washington to protest the "War on Drugs," which he describes as the "five decade-long misery and devastation of humanity, that has resulted in one in every 15 African-American men in prison." The hip hop magnate, along with author and activist Dr. Boyce Watkins, will release a letter to President Obama, offering the President support in ending "draconian laws and prison sentences across America." The letter, says Simmons, is signed by over 175 of the most influential people in America. And he's asking people the world to join the "cyber march" by using "every resource from newspapers to television, but especially the Internet and popular culture to educate and engage the masses to push for the end of the war." Simmons pointed out today that while the Obama administration increasingly emphasized treatment and prevention programs, the 2013 budget still includes $25.6 billion in federal spending on the drug war—including $15 billion towards "law enforcement, interdiction and international efforts." 

Critics say that the billions funneled into the US war on drugs since the '70s haven't lowered addiction rates, but have made US incarceration rates the highest in the world. According to The Sentencing Project, 2.2 million Americans are currently imprisoned—a 500% increase in 30 years. Black people make up 50% of state and local prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes, and black kids are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white ones—even though white kids are more likely to use illegal drugs. A chart produced by the American Civil Liberties Union dramatically illustrates these stats. Simmons urges supporters to watch "The House I Live In" on PBS tonight and to log onto this website tomorrow morning.

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Sarah Beller is a writer and the Executive Director at Filter. She has written about drug policy with a focus on harm reduction for Substance.comThe Fix and Salon. She has worked as a social worker with formerly incarcerated people in New York for a number of years. Her writing has also appeared in McSweeney’sThe HairpinThe ToastReductressThe Rumpus and other publications. You can find Sarah on Linkedin and Twitter.