Friday, April 06, 2007

And the War on Drugs rolls on...

I'm sure that anyone taking the time to read this blog is against the war on drugs, probably ardently so. I've certainly been strongly against as long as I can pretty much remember knowing about it, and there's basically nothing that could change my mind on the subject. So it's basically just beating a dead horse to continue talking about it, but it still exists, so we should all continue pointing out how fundamentally corrupt it is.

As a recent ACLU report points out, the War on Drugs is only getting worse as time goes on. The numbers are simply staggering: For instance, African Americans make up 15 percent of drug users, but account for 37 percent of those arrested on drug charges, 59 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison.

This means that black folk are nearly 6 times as likely to be sentenced to prison for the same offense as are white folks. And of course, this says nothing of the class nature inherent in the system, but even the ACLU isn't about to get that radical. It speaks very well to what Jeffery Reiman writes about the way in which every step in the criminal justice system is designed to weed out white and upper class offenders and punish the poor and those of color, hence why the percentage of African Americans in the system increases so dramatically at each step.

But it gets even worse. America has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70 percent) are black or Latino.

Again, it seems like a moot point to bring this up amongst readers who I can only assume are already pretty progressive, but I'm reminded of what my old boss David Goodson used to say about the racial nature of the drug war. He always pointed out that you could drive 15 minutes to one side of the college town we lived in where the predominantly (by which I mean about 97%) white university was located and you could find pretty much any drug you wanted with little effort. But the cops weren't always stopping people and doing random searches on campus. Instead, they were all focused on the side of town where he and the vast majority of black folk in the area lived.

So of course, while David had been incarcerated for drug use in the past, all of my white activist friends who were constantly neck-deep in drugs would never see in the inside of a prison, even (as was the case) when they were arrested. But of course we all know that it is actually affirmative action policies that assist African Americans in getting into college that are racist, not a billion-dollar century-long program designed specifically to railroad minorities into prison for victim-less crimes.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeeah, so what IS the deal with black people?
Laura

Howard said...

As others have pointed out, the real term should be "war on drug users," not "war on drugs." Can't put drugs in jail.

Just adding my two cents.