Reports Find Racial Gap in Drug Arrests

Reports Find Racial Gap in Drug Arrests
Posted by CN Staff on May 06, 2008 at 04:33:05 PT
By Erik Eckholm
Source: New York Times
New York -- More than two decades after President Ronald Reagan escalated the war on drugs, arrests for drug sales or, more often, drug possession are still rising. And despite public debate and limited efforts to reduce them, large disparities persist in the rate at which blacks and whites are arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses, even though the two races use illegal drugs at roughly equal rates.
Two new reports, issued Monday by the Sentencing Project in Washington and by Human Rights Watch in New York, both say the racial disparities reflect, in large part, an overwhelming focus of law enforcement on drug use in low-income urban areas, with arrests and incarceration the main weapon.But they note that the murderous crack-related urban violence of the 1980s, which spawned the war on drugs, has largely subsided, reducing the rationale for a strategy that has sowed mistrust in the justice system among many blacks. In 2006, according to federal data, drug-related arrests climbed to 1.89 million, up from 1.85 million in 2005 and 581,000 in 1980. More than four in five of the arrests were for possession of banned substances, rather than for their sale or manufacture. Four in 10 of all drug arrests were for marijuana possession, according to the latest F.B.I. data. Apart from crowding prisons, one result is a devastating impact on the lives of black men: they are nearly 12 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug convictions as adult white men, according to the Human Rights Watch report. Others are arrested for possession of small quantities of drugs and later released, but with a permanent blot on their records anyway. “The way the war on drugs has been pursued is one of the biggest reasons for the growing racial disparities in criminal justice over all,” said Ryan S. King, a policy analyst with the Sentencing Project who wrote its report, which focuses on the differential in arrest rates, not only between races but also among cities around the country. Some cities pursue urban, minority drug use far more intensively than do others. Both Democratic presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, have strongly condemned the racial disparities in arrests and incarceration during their campaigns, although neither has said how they would end them. Two-thirds of those arrested for drug violations in 2006 were white and 33 percent were black, although blacks made up 12.8 percent of the population, F.B.I. data show. National data are not collected on ethnicity, and arrests of Hispanics may be in either category. “The race question is so entangled in the way the drug war was conceived,” said Jamie Fellner, a senior counsel at Human Rights Watch and the author of its report. “If the drug issue is still seen as primarily a problem of the black inner city, then we’ll continue to see this enormously disparate impact,” Ms. Fellner said. Her report cites federal data from 2003, the most recent available on this aspect, indicating that blacks constituted 53.5 percent of all who entered prison for a drug conviction. Some crime experts say that the disparities exist for sound reasons. Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York, said it made sense for police to focus more on fighting visible drug dealing in low-income urban areas, largely involving members of minorities, than on hidden use in suburban homes, more often by whites, because the urban street trade is more associated with violence and other crimes and impairs the quality of life. “The disparities reflect policing decisions to use drug laws to try and reduce violence and to respond to the demand by law-abiding residents in poor neighborhoods to clean up the drug trade,” Ms. Mac Donald said. But what people in low-income urban areas need is not more incarceration but improved public safety, Mr. King said. “Arresting hundreds of thousands of young African-American men hasn’t ended street-corner drug sales.” A shift of resources toward drug treatment and social services rather than wholesale incarceration, he said, would do more to improve conditions in blighted neighborhoods. Limited efforts have been made to shift policies in ways that may reduce racial differences. Many states are experimenting with so-called drug courts, which send users to treatment rather than prison. This does not, however, affect arrest rates, which have lifelong consequences even for those who are never convicted or imprisoned. Police in a few cities including Denver, Seattle and Oakland, Calif., have said they are spending fewer resources on arrests for lower-lever offenses like marijuana possession. In December, the United States Sentencing Commission amended the federal sentencing guidelines for convictions involving crack cocaine, which is more often used by blacks, somewhat reducing the length of sentences compared with those for convictions involving powder cocaine. But mandatory and longer sentences for crack violations remain embedded in federal and state laws. Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Erik EckholmPublished: May 6, 2008Copyright: 2008 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Justice Archives 
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Comment #8 posted by John Tyler on May 06, 2008 at 19:04:33 PT
urban underclass
An urban underclass life style with overcrowded and small living spaces forces people out into the streets. Their business comes out to the street with them. They are easy pickings for the narcs. The drug laws were always slanted against African-American. The point was to destroy the black community. Which is what happened. The white politicians and bourgeois black leaders could sit back and say, “tut tut, they have done it to themselves”. I’m surprised it has taken so long for the media and black leaders and the politicians (both Dems and Repubs) to notice it. They were there watching it from the beginning. Better late than never I suppose. 
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on May 06, 2008 at 09:30:25 PT
Poverty creates it's own set of values. Feeding a hungry baby when there isn't a way to make any money will cause people to do what they have to do to feed that child.
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Comment #6 posted by museman on May 06, 2008 at 09:17:43 PT
"Poverty fuels drugs being sold just to put food on the table."That's the nail, and you hit it. False values create economic imbalance, rich people create poor people just by their very existence (I know some folks don't agree with that- but if it isn't becoming apparent, it soon will be.) Poverty creates motivation for breaking rules that cannot stand in the light of reason and reality. A hungry child defies all the beaurocratic nonsense and cannot be fed with words and false promises.Big Brother is really a Big Bother.By creating a situation where rules have to be broken in order to have any kind if quality of life, the whole farcical 'justice system' comes into being -with the rich people controlling it. With prohibition they discovered another means of sucking off the people. What they haven't seemed to figure out -kinda like the oil/tectonic plate situation, is that you reach a point where is very little left to suck, and faulty structures with very little real support and buttress come crashing down. Actually, come to think of it I think they think they can go into their hole at Cheyenne Mt. and ride out their intentional world destruction. Of course that is stupid and ridiculous, but then, so are they.We've heard the saying "Sucking on the government tit." What about the fact that it is the government that is sucking on the People tit?
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Comment #5 posted by museman on May 06, 2008 at 08:59:13 PT
runruff#2 OT-sortof
Your statement made me think of a song that Chauntawe wrote called 'Addicted' that the boy's band, called 'WEGO' is performing. I am mastering a demo CD for them right now. As soon as I get a workable mix mastered, I will provide a link. It's a good song, says a lot, and is oh so appropriate.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on May 06, 2008 at 08:28:35 PT
Very interesting comment. I believe that hard drugs and race and congested cities go hand in hand. Poverty fuels drugs being sold just to put food on the table. I think when too many people are living in an area open criminal activity occurs more often then in rural America. More Whites live in rural America then African Americans.
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Comment #3 posted by OverwhelmSam on May 06, 2008 at 08:12:08 PT
I've Pondered This Issue
I'm a relatively conservative white male who has enjoyed marijuana regularly for thrity years. I've kept a few contacts from the black market to obtain my "supplies" and I usually take the product straight home for consumption at my leisure. I do not socialize much with other cannabis enthusiasts (other than an occassional event and online) because, quite frankly some people are cop magnets in that they conduct themselves in such a way as to draw the attention of law enforcement. Once arrested, rather than fight the charges, they tend to turn others in to save their own skin. In urban centers, people are out on the streets, possibly partying, which makes them easy targets for law enforcement. I don't think it's so much racially motivated as it is an easy bust as opposed to, say in my case, finding someone who could claim that I use cannabis, obtaining evidence against me, and securing a warrant, and then for what, a quarter ounce of pot? And then even if busted, I pay a fine and start looking for reasons to sue. You see, in my case, it's an up hill fight just to get me on a misdeomeaner charge of possession. Like I really care. LOL I hold marijuana laws in total contempt and don't respect any law enforcement official who arrests cannabis users who are otherwise not hurting Society in any significant way.That's why I think black and hispanic consumers are arrested at a higher rate. Anyone think this might be the case, or is racial hatred to blame?
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Comment #2 posted by runruff on May 06, 2008 at 07:01:52 PT:
My newest slogan.
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on May 06, 2008 at 05:14:22 PT
Cannabis users are being sacrificed...
If I'm not mistaken, cannabis arrests in Denver have increased. (EVEN AFTER VOTERS SAID THEY WANT TO STOP THAT ILL.)SO, if Denver, "have said they are spending fewer resources on arrests for lower-lever offenses like marijuana possession"THEN, if arrests have increased, while spending less to do so,they have increased profit margins with less overhead.PROFIT IS UP.Doesn't seem like there is motivation to stop caging cannabis users. If fact their motivation is higher to keep caging for less cost  example-   -While gas prices increase even cop cars must be fed and increasing revenue or something must take place to do so.     ?Can they afford to stop persecuting and discriminating against innocent citizens?Denver and everyone just needs a more affordable bomb.   -America has decided to bomb cannabists and want to spend less to do it.Cannabis users are being sacrificed...
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