Review of ‘The House I live In’
‘The House I Live In’ by Eugene Jarecki is a documentary that gives a tentative view of the war against drugs in America. The documentary gives insights on the effects of the U.S. drug policy on human rights. Through the documentary, we gain an understanding of how this war continues to affect the parties involved. The viewers can gain insights from the views of the drug dealers, the narcotic officers, the inmates, and the judges with an aim to understand one of the biggest failures in America’s criminal justice system.
The film highlights the magnanimous failures of the country’s war against drugs. According to Jarecki (2012), the war against drugs has lasted for approximately forty years with no end in sight. The war has resulted in over 45 million arrests and $1 trillion in government expenditure. The war on drugs has also catapulted America to the number one country in the world in terms of arrests.
With all this expenditure and arrests, it comes as a great shock to the American public that the war is failing miserably in its prerogative to obliterate drug use/abuse in the country. Throughout the forty plus years since the war began, the drugs have become cheaper and more readily accessible than ever before. While the prices of these drugs have significantly dropped, their purity and quality continue to increase. The documentary captures the gut-wrenching stories of those individuals who have been at the forefront, the drug dealers, the incarcerated drug users, and the law enforcement agencies.
The film does not attempt to insinuate that the war against drugs is wrong. The film accepts that drug abuse is a national public health concern that the entire society should be worried about. However, it questions the merit of having the issue on drugs framed as an issue for law enforcement agencies. It postulates that the law surrounding drug abuse is draconian and has resulted in the unprecedented and unstoppable growth of the menace. Putting the drug war in the hands of the criminal justice system has resulted in the incarceration of more than 2.5 men and women throughout the decades. Incarceration of this proportion has obviously wreaked havoc on the families of the incarcerated individuals.
The war on drugs has particularly had a negative and destructive impact on African Americans, which leaves many pondering whether it is simply a war on drugs alone. Could the war on drugs be a front for a pseudo-war against the black Americans? Jenkins (2012) agrees with Jarecki (2012), when he asserts that the American war on drugs is rooted in racial and ethnic prejudice.
The film also takes a closer look at how judicial and executive corruption has fueled the war on drugs. This is despite the ever-increasing evidence of its failures in all fronts, be they moral, practical, or economic fronts. The incarceration industry has become one governed by economics rather than justice. In other words, incarceration of perpetrators of victimless crimes has become a business in the country.
The film also has a personal element in it with Jarecki (2012) giving us his first-hand experience with the destructive effects of the war against drugs. His nannie’s son was destroyed by drugs and then incarcerated. The writer has fond memories of playing with his nanny’s son when they were young and how things could have turned out so differently for them both. This personal element shines light on how the drug war is biased. During the documentary, an interviewee calls the treatment of black Americans in the war against drugs ‘another holocaust in slow motion’ (Jarecki, 2012).
Jarecki, E. (Producer and Director). (2012). The House I Live In (Documentary). United States: Abramorama.
Jenkins, M. (2012, Oct 4). When it comes to drugs, a ‘house’ deeply divided. National Public Radio. Retrieved on 10/2/2016 from http://www.npr.org/2012/10/04/161979625/when-it-comes-to-drugs-a-house-deeply-divided