Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Drug Convictions in Black and White

Hey Barack and Hillary, I'm not sure which of you will capture the nomination. It honestly doesn't much matter to me at this point. But it would be refreshing to see either one, or preferably both, of you address this problem:

The Drug War (aka the War Against Black Men).

While drug usage among whites and blacks is relatively even, black men are almost 12 times more likely than white men to be convicted and sent to prison.
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.

Drug-related arrests continue to climb year after year, and according to the FBI, based on the most recent data available, marijuana arrests account for 40% of the total. This needs to be a political issue, but unfortunately both Obama and Clinton seem to be afflicted with Bushitis when it comes to a solution.
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.

Call me. I have more than a few ideas. In the grand scheme of things, with all our problems which include Iraq, oil prices, the housing crisis, poverty, and disappearing jobs, the injustice inherent in the drug war is relatively easy to solve.
“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.

Appalling. No wonder I like to fire one up for presidential debates and primary election returns.

Crossposted at Big Brass Blog

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