Date of Conferral





Criminal Justice


Gregory Koehle


The War on Drugs has been a contested issue in the United States for decades. Many believe that African Americans are targeted by the government and become victims of the penal system as a result of anti-drug policies. The purpose of this ethnographic study was to explore the impact of the war on drugs on African American men, women, and young adults from their perspectives. Racial threat theory provided the framework for the study. Data were collected through interviews with and observations of 30 African American participants who had experiences directly and indirectly with the War on Drugs. Participant were recruited through purposeful and snowball sampling. Results of coding analysis by way of NVivo revealed that that many African Americans experience mental health issues (specifically depression and anxiety) due to direct and indirect consequences of drug penalties. Findings also showed that fair sentencing is needed for African Americans, and that African Americans need to come together to impact social change in their communities. Findings may be used to promote drug policy reform, rehabilitation for African American offenders and their families by addressing the mental health challenges individuals face directly and indirectly due to the drug penalties; in addition to increasing the access to these mental health resources. Furthermore, political changes for decriminalization of marijuana and commuting sentences for those penalized for the drug are apart the social changes that would lessen the impact the War on Drugs has on African Americans.