“Death Comes For A Child”, Kathe Kollwitz, 1934
Children of parents incarcerated under drug laws suffer injuries so severe and so devastating that if their case could be brought before a jury they would be compensated at the same level as a quadriplegic child victim of a drunk driver.
The masterminds behind the US War On Drugs have always sold it on the basis of the terrible costs that drugs impose on innocent children. But quite the opposite is true – it is the Police State and its vicious drug laws that make criminals out of parents and thereby impose horrific, life-crippling costs on millions of their children.
Approximately 500,000 of the 900,000+ parents in US State & Federal prison in any given year are there for drug-related crimes. The 1,000,000+ children of these Drug Law prisoners are especially victimized because the crime under which their parents are imprisoned does not exist in nature.
Even in the most remote societies on earth, murder is murder and theft is theft. These are natural crimes, and are universally punished. But drug crimes only exist when governments create them, a process that is historically corrupt and self-serving.
Illegitimate government agencies that injure children while exercising illegitimate authority based on an illegitimate legal structure ought to be held accountable, even if that means simply calculating and naming the harm that these thugs in suits and uniforms do to children.
Most of us know that the Drug Laws cost our American society $100 Billion a year in state and federal “drug fighting” budgets, but my goal in this post is to out one of the rarely-considered costs of the WOD – the lifetime costs of the predictable and preventable damage done to children and families of parents imprisoned under these laws.
The Lifetime Damage Done To Children
The research is unequivocal. Kids with parents in prison face greater exposure than parented children to an array of harmful events and experiences that have lifetime consequences including early violent death. These kids suffer far more than their parented peers from early pregnancy, dropping out of school, gang involvement, a juvenile arrest record, lifetime poor health, risky sexual and chemical behavior, unemployment, and lifetime dependence on social services. Whatever life was like before their parent was imprisoned, it is far worse these kids afterwards.
It is unfair that any children suffer because of the crimes of their parents, but there is a difference between children of parents who, for example, commit violent deadly crimes and children of people imprisoned for drug crimes.
Children of violent criminals lose their parents as a result of their parents’ wrongdoing, and what happens to these children isn’t right, or just, but it isn’t the result of a corrupt government system. But children who lose parents imprisoned under the drug laws are victimized not by their parents but by a corrupt, entrenched system.
Neither the crime nor the agencies and courts nor the cartels nor the pervasive exploitation of the poor would exist if not for these Drug Laws. And neither would the damage that Drug Laws do to the children of those who are illegitimately imprisoned under those laws.
Hey Kid – What’s Your Life Worth?
If your parent is imprisoned because of drug laws, and especially if that person is your only parent, then your life probably isn’t worth a whole lot. Here are some of the reasons why – and good luck kid.
- You’re probably going to earn a lot less in your lifetime than your parented counterparts
- You will probably be sexually abused and physically mistreated or assaulted by adults multiple times.
- You’re are more likely to be a victim of violent street crime than your parented counterparts
- You will also be more likely to commit violent crime than your parented counterparts
- You’re health will probably never be good and you will probably die young
- You will probably have low social and communications skills and will not be able to develop support networks
- You will probably live in blighted and polluted surroundings
- You will probably have low self-esteem and be victimized by others
- You will probably have a juvenile and then an adult police record
- You will probably have multiple sexual contacts resulting in pregnancy
- If you are male you will probably not take a role in your children’s lives; if you are a female you will probably be a single mother
- Your children and grandchildren are more likely be born neurologically & physically damaged than those born to your parented counterparts
Since the rise of the Police State founded on Drug Laws in the early 1970s approximately 5 to 7 Million children have had parents imprisoned because of these laws. Many if not most of these children have experienced the life just outlined, and incurred the resulting lifetime injuries, as a direct result of having their parent imprisoned under Drug Laws.
So, what would the damages to their lives be worth, in a sane world?
If a child is horribly injured and crippled for life as a consequence of a deliberate malicious act of a person or institution, society’s laws typically hold that person or institution to be both criminally and civilly liable for the injuries they caused to the child. There is no reason at all why the government, institutional and corporate Drug Law predators and beneficiaries shouldn’t be held accountable for the injuries they have caused over the past 50 years.
There is a lot of precedent for assigning legal liability to governments and institutions as well as to individuals, groups and organizations for injury that they cause. Specifically, compensating children for harm done to them under the legal cover provided by criminally negligent private and public institutions is well established. For examples we need look no further than the huge sums paid as War Crimes compensation by governments for atrocities committed by their military forces, the Billions paid by corporate criminals worldwide as civil – rarely criminal – penalties for their desecration of human environments and lives, and the enormous sums paid by Catholic Dioceses around the world to compensate victims for the crimes against their childhood by pedophile priests.
Which brings us back to the roughly 1 million children in any given year in the US who have lost their parent – often their only parent – to the drug law system. Is there a reasonable figure for the damage done to each of these children by the Drug Laws and if so, what is it?
Given that some children of Drug Law prisoners suffer more severely than others. Some are rendered into the equivalent of a lifetime quadriplegic by having a parent taken away, while others are cared for by other loving adults until their parent can return and suffer only minor damage. It is impossible to say how many of the 1 Million children of imprisoned parents in a given year will suffer severe damage, but another glance at the first table in this post would suggest that 50-75% of them may well be traumatized for life by what they are forced to endure by the Drug Laws.
So would an average of $1 Million per child be too much compensation for the suffering, pain, and a lifetime of potential productivity and happiness taken away from 1 Million children by the false imprisonment of their parent under Drug Laws?
Would anyone be satisfied with a $1 Million jury award for a child made quadriplegic by a drunk driver or turned into a vegetable by being sexually assaulted and beaten?
Probably not. $1 Million is probably ridiculously low. So since it is way too conservative, let’s use $1 Million as a basis for calculating the total cost of the War On Drugs in terms of damage to children.
A number of research studies agree that the total number of children of parents imprisoned under the Drug Laws since the early 1970s is between 5-7 Million children.
Assuming an average of $1 Million in lifetime damages per child, this means that the War On Drugs has caused between $5-$7 Trillion in total damages to children and families since its most recent incarnation began in the early 1970s.
That $5-$7 Trillion is real money lost to millions of children over their lifetimes. Their loss is certainly as real as the loss to a child who is permanently injured in an accident. That $5-$7 Trillion is not simply income and opportunity that these children will collectively lose because they will never have the opportunity to obtain it, it is a cost also born by the greater society. When the children of prisoners suffer their loss, society also suffers that loss because it represents the productivity, health and well-being of that person that will never be realized and in far too many cases they become a social welfare burden.
The damage and lifetime costs to each child victim of the War On Drugs begin the moment that prison cell door slams behind their Mommy or Daddy just as surely as the damages and lifetime costs begin the moment a drunk slams into a child on a bike.
If I seem to be stretching things a bit with the notion that the US government has been assaulting millions of parents under false pretext for nearly 50 years with its War On Drugs and in the process crippling millions of their children for life, please reflect on how many children the US military assaults, cripples and kills by self-proclaimed “accident” or as admitted and excused “collateral damage” every year around the world. Is this a government that is above feeding off the lives of its weakest and poorest?
While the Drug Law structure is solidly entrenched and fully institutionalized, especially at the federal level, it ultimately has no legitimacy except for what comes out of the barrel of a gun.
In the next part of this ongoing series of posts I plan to calculate the economic loss imposed on those tens of millions of people around the world who must endure the hell on earth of violence, crime, poverty and degradation that has been created not by the evil of drugs, as generations of propagandists have claimed, but by the evil and devastating Drug Laws that have been endlessly promoted and often imposed on other countries by the US government.