The United States' war on drugs has been "devastating" and "disastrous," according to a new joint report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The nearly 200-page report details the ways in which the U.S. government's war on drugs tears families apart, targets people of color, and "undermines public health," amounting in harm that the report says is unjustifiable.

The report, "Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States," is titled for the rate at which someone is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests per year. In many cases, the arrests are made for very small amounts of drugs, or even for drug residue, which can lead to convictions landing individuals in prison for decades or even for life. The separation of people from their families, jobs, and lives has long-term, devastating impacts, according to the report. 

HRW and the ACLU emphasize in their report that while white people and people of color use and sell drugs at almost the same rates,  poor black communities are hit much harder by the war on drugs. Nationally, black people are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than white people, the report states. In some states and cities, this figure is much higher: in Manhattan, a black person is 11 times more likely to be arrested for possession than a white person.

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Image via Human Rights Watch

Tess Borden, the report's author and the Aryeh Neier Fellow at HRW and the ACLU, says in an HRW article accompanying the report that "criminalizing personal drug use is a colossal waste of lives and resources."

The report states that drug users who need help aren't getting sustainable help that works in prison. Borden states that if the government really wants to solve existing drug problems, "[T]hey need to end the current revolving door of drug possession arrests, and focus on effective health strategies instead." Put simply, the report recommends the decriminalization of all drug possession for personal use.