Mike Gravel: End the War on Drugs

July 2, 2007 -- In Thursday's All American Presidential Forum moderated by PBS' Tavis Smiley, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Gravel repeatedly shared his belief that the "war on drugs" is a failure and should end immediately.

Held at Howard University, the primetime Democratic forum was the first to feature a panel consisting entirely of African-American journalists. The forum focused mainly on issues relating to the African-American community. Topics discussed included immigration, healthcare, as well as inequities in education and income between the races.

During these discussions, Senator Gravel said that many of the issues in the African-American community stem from the criminalization of drugs. Gravel provided statistics regarding the substantial increase in incarcerations from 1979 to 2005 (with over 2.3 million Americans currently in jail) and said that he believed that the nation's strict drug laws were to blame.

On his website, Gravel elaborates on his views regarding drugs: "We are losing an entire generation of young men and women to our prisons. Our nation's ineffective and wasteful 'war on drugs' plays a major role in this. We must place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation and prevention. We must de-criminalize minor drug offenses and increase the availability and visibility of substance abuse treatment and prevention in our communities as well as in jails and prisons."

Gravel believes that mandatory drug sentencing laws should be abolished and that drug abusers should be given rehabilitation opportunities instead of jail time: "Drug defendants convicted of nonviolent offenses should not be given mandatory prison sentences. We should emphasize the criminalization of the importers, manufacturers, and major distributors, rather than just the street venders. Prisons in this country should be a legitimate criminal sanction -- but it should be an extension of a fair, just and wise society."

Although Gravel's campaign has not received much national attention, he certainly has gained notice on YouTube, with his political ad titled "Rock" receiving over 150,000 views in the past month. The almost three-minute "Rock" advertisement features Gravel looking into the camera, saying nothing, for over a minute. Gravel then throws a rock into the nearby water and proceeds to walk away from the camera. Matt Mayes and Guston Sondin-Klausner of Otis College of Art and Design created the ad, which Gravel describes to MSNBC as a "metaphor ... the point of the spot is not the rock but the ripples it leaves in the water ... (just) as an ordinary citizen who's trying to make a difference by doing something and it causes ripples in society."

Source: Mike Gravel campaign

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