Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Racial Gaps in Drug Arrests

None of this is particularly newsworthy or unknown to students of Criminology, but it does bear repeating nevertheless.

Reports Find Racial Gap in Drug Arrests:

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.

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.

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.
I remember students in 3810 openly snickering this past semester when I said that marijuana was the drug targeted as "top priority" in the nation's War on Drugs for the past several years, and that it remains a priority because "the chronic" is still viewed as a "gateway drug" to other kinds of drugs and crime.

But where this translates into a version of what Parenti and others call "The New American Apartheid" is in imprisonment disparities.
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)...yet blacks constituted 53.5 percent of all who entered prison for a drug conviction.
A "war" indeed.

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