For the past 40 years, the war on drugs has resulted in more than 45 million arrests, $1 trillion dollars in government spending, and America’s role as the world’s largest jailer. Yet for all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available than ever. Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories of those on the front lines — from the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge — and offers a penetrating look at the profound human rights implications of America’s longest war.
The film recognizes drug abuse as a matter of public health, and investigates the tragic errors and shortcomings that have resulted from framing it as an issue for law enforcement. It also examines how political and financial corruption has fueled the war on drugs, despite persistent evidence of its moral, economic, and practical failures. The drug war in America has helped establish the largest prison-industrial system in the world, contributing to the incarceration of 2.3 million men and women and is responsible for untold collateral damage to the lives of countless individuals and families, with a particularly destructive impact on black America.
“It’d be one thing if it was draconian and it worked. But it’s draconian and it doesn’t work. It just leads to more,” says David Simon, creator of the HBO series, The Wire.
Instead of questioning a campaign of such epic cost and failure, those in public office generally advocate for harsher penalties for drug offenses, lest they be perceived as soft on crime. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing, a small offense can put a nonviolent offender behind bars for decades — or even life. Many say these prisoners are paying for fear instead of paying for their crime.
“If you stand in a federal court, you’re watching poor and uneducated people being fed into a machine like meat to make sausage. It’s just bang, bang, bang, bang. Next!” says journalist Charles Bowden.
But there’s a growing recognition among those on all sides that the war on drugs is a failure. At a time of heightened fiscal instability, the drug war is also seen as economically unsustainable. Beyond its human cost at home, the unprecedented violence in Mexico provides a daily reminder of the war’s immense impact abroad, and America has at last begun to take the first meaningful steps toward reform. At this pivotal moment, the film promotes public awareness of the problem while encouraging new and innovative pathways to domestic drug policy reform.
This is the official description from the film’s website or IMDb page.
“Directed with heart by Eugene Jarecki, the movie is an insistently personal and political look at the war on drugs and its thousands of casualties, including those serving hard time for minor offenses.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“Drug abuse is primarily a medical problem, not a crime against society. American anti-drug policy is a means of social control that’s rooted in racial and ethnic prejudice. The country’s incarceration industry has become a self-sustaining force, predicated on economics rather than justice. None of these arguments, made vigorously in The House I Live In, are novel; some have been advanced for decades, if not longer.” – Mark Jenkins, NPR
Watch the trailer here: