The House I Live In (2012)
This is a confusing movie about a complex subject, but it's still worth watching. Drugs are bad enough; as one bereaved mother says in this documentary film, "drugs are a monster." But the impression given by writer and director Eugene Jarecki is that, no matter how bad drugs are, the "war on drugs" is worse. That's a tough sell. The movie is right, though. There are horrible problems associated with the "war on drugs" started by President Nixon in 1971. 45 million people have been arrested, many of them non-violent offenders. Mandatory minimum sentences restrict judicial discretion. Ridiculous laws punish users of crack far more harshly than users of powder cocaine. Confiscation of property by police turns out to be a tantalizing treasure trove. And God help the politician who appears "soft on crime." The net effect of all these things has been to decimate our urban black families, whose people are far more likely to suffer the consequences of the war on drugs. For a scholarly treatment of the same subject, see Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow; Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2012 revised edition). Alexander is one of the many experts interviewed in the film. Her book argues that our penal system isn't broken; it's doing just what it was created to do — control black people.