“The House I Live In” by Eugene Jarecki, Summary

A Brief Summary of: ‘The House I Live In’ By Eugene Jarecki

“The House I Live In” is a documentary film that was released on the 5th of October, 2012. It is written and directed by Eugene Jarecki, and its main theme is the War on Drugs.

The demise of his housekeeper’s son motivates Eugene Jarecki to explore the real cost of America’s failure to win the war on drugs. As the United States remain embroiled in disputes abroad, little is being done at home to fight drug addiction that is destroying families, claiming countless lives and imposing extreme damage upon future American generations. In the beginning, Jarecki informs us that within the last forty years, the War on Drugs for over forty-five million apprehensions damaged poor communities and families both at home and overseas and even made the United States the largest jailer in the world. Despite all of this, drugs are now more available and cheaper than ever before.

The documentary is constituted by research that is corroborated by first-hand accounts from correction officers, dealers and David Simon, an ex-police reporter who usually documented the crime beat. There are millions of people, both sellers, and users who are getting locked up, the crime more often not matching the intensity of the punishment. One case in point is a man who is given life imprisonment for selling a small quantity of crystal meth. Due to state regulations, the man has no chance of spending time outside the prison walls for the remaining part of his life. Nevertheless, however, individuals who have done more heinous crimes are entitled to parole.

According to Jarecki, the manner in which drug laws vary across different states is fascinating while at the same time outrageous. Another such worth mentioning scenario is Hon. Mark Bennett is conflicting with his state’s bare minimum sentencing regulations and wanting to give someone a shorter sentence. However, he is not legally mandated to do so. Additionally,

Jarecki takes through the picture of those being arrested: African-Americans and lower-class citizens tend to be apprehended more commonly when compared to other groups of people.

In the early stages of the film, Jarecki introduces Nannie Jeter to us, his childhood nanny as well as a person who constituted a greater part of his development. When Jeter loses her son to drugs, it helps to lure us emotionally into the film.

The documentary is so in-depth that is easy to get absorbed and inundated by the statistical details given by Jarecki.

Nannie Jeter and her family are African-Americans. She lost her youngest son, James Jeter to drugs. As James got more addicted to drugs, it became more difficult for his mother to control and discipline him. So many household belongings including money for food and rent would disappear from the house. From her Jeter’ recollections, it was a common thing to find another person’s son stealing furniture from a neighbor’s house so that he can sell and get money to buy drugs.

From the way the child begs the police not to take his mother, it is evident that the drugs are ripping apart families. Michelle Alexander then talks about how Reagan announced his plans to rev up the war against drugs. The president used the issue as a political opportunity despite the drug crime actually being on the decline at the time. As viewers, we are introduced to the term ‘crack cocaine’ by Bob Schieffer, Dan Rather, President Ronald Reagan and Michelle Alexander. President Regan refers to crack /smokable cocaine as new epidemic and uncontrolled fire whereas Michelle identifies as a brand new demon-like type of cocaine.

As the films continue, two police officers arresting a black young man are introduced to us. Afterward, Mark Mauer, Carl Hart, Robert Stutman and Harold Dow discuss how the image of a black man was associated with the crack user. From their conversation, we get to know that the drug is so powerful and can empty all the money from your pockets and make you sell your wristwatch and clothes. As Robert puts it, the crack can even make you kill your mother.  We also find out that the same effects were associated with marijuana between 1920 and 1940.

In his commentary, Jarecki gives us a brief description of when the drug laws and war against drugs were initiated. We see that the fight against drugs started in the 1800s, but later on, it was declared a ‘war’ in 1971 by Richard Nixon. Jarecki further tells us that when something is a ‘war,’ it comes with all the things accompanies war including corruption, victims, profiteering, aggressors and fear mongering.

Bernard Kerik says that war on corruption has to be fought on all fronts just like the way the fight against terrorism is done. From Richard Lawrence, CCA spokesperson, Restrain Chair spokesman and Michelle, we find that there are people and companies interested in doing business with correction facilities. They are those that even support the expansion of correction centers to accommodate more prisoners.

Filmed across most of the American States, ‘The House I Live In’ captures heart jerking stories from different people that are affected by War on Drugs. Right from the dealer to the mourning mother, the convict to the federal judge and the prison warden to the senator, the film provides a penetrating perspective at America’s longest war. The film recognizes the weightiness of substance abuse regarding public health. It also investigates the shortcomings and the tragic errors that reflect that drug issue is frequently regarded as a factor behind law enforcement, thus creating a monstrous machine which usually feeds on minority and poor communities. Furthermore, the film explores the way economic and political sleaze have to drive the Drug War for four decades amidst imperative evidence substantiation of its practical, moral and economic failures.