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Decontextualizing the War on Drugs: A Content Analysis of NIJ (National Institute of Justice) Publications and Their Neglect of Race and Class

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 15 Issue: 4 Dated: December 1998 Pages: 719-742
Date Published
24 pages

This study is a content analysis of a sample of National Institute of Justice (NIJ) research publications on drug control, with attention to drug policies' impact on race and class.


Consulting the publications catalog for the NIJ/National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), the researchers selected 69 NIJ documents published between 1985 and 1995. The publications had to focus on drugs and be readily available without charge; thus, the study excluded 15 publications available only through photocopying, interlibrary loan, or microfiche. The researchers systematically examined each research publication in the sample to assess its content on drug control, especially as it pertains to race and class. Specifically, the study sought to determine whether each publication addressed or neglected race in its research; an identical procedure was used for class. The content analysis also focused on identifying the various forms of drug control strategies advocated in each publication. The findings show that numerous reports inadequately address the implications of Federal drug policies for various races and classes or ignore this issue altogether. Given the volume of evidence that documents how the war on drugs disproportionately affects people of color and the impoverished, this form of "decontextualization" becomes propaganda by concealing the racial and socioeconomic biases of current drug control strategies. 6 tables and 133 references

Date Published: January 1, 1998