The War With No End: Sentencing Disparities in the "War on Drugs" and National Trends that are Defining a Nation

Date of Award


Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no embargo, no restriction)

Work Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Michael Honey

Second Advisor

Charles Williams


The most industrialized nation in the world is the country with the highest rate of incarceration. Of over 2 million people incarcerated in the United States, over half of those imprisoned are Black-Americans. This report examines the "War on Drugs" and the policies and practices contributing to increased incarceration rates from a geographical perspective with a focus on Washington State. The research examines if the incarceration rates in the state are lining up with national trends, and the contributing factors. Washington State has a small African-American population of about three percent yet its prison population aligns with national trends with Blacks representing over 25 percent of those incarcerated, 11 times their percentage of the population. The war has been going on for 30 years and for 30 years prison rates have steadily risen across the country. The "War on Drugs" is part of a long sustained pattern of white dominance over Blacks. The war that began in the 1980s is not catching the drug kingpins its intended to. Instead, prisons are filled with many nonviolent low-level offenders with substance abuse problems. Facing cutbacks Washington State offers offenders alternatives to incarceration with treatment as an option, but the policies and practices of the state are not benefitting disenfranchised groups. Through the "War on Drugs," employment, housing, and educational discrimination have been legalized with an already marginalized group suffering the consequences. The War on Drugs has influenced the face of the prison population, and is turning into a legalized formed of discrimination across the country.