Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Persistent Injustice

Let's hope Jeremiah Wright doesn't see this. Might make him angrier.

African Americans have suffered much higher rates of arrests and imprisonment than whites in the nearly 30-year-old U.S. "war on drugs", according to two reports released here this week.

While white citizens constitute the large majority of convicted drug offenders, African American communities have been the principal "fronts" in the war, according to "Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States", by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Among other conclusions, the 67-page report found that African Americans constituted 53.5 percent of all individuals who were sentenced to prison for violating drug laws between the war's launch in 1980 and 2003, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Across 34 states covered by the HRW report, a black man was found to be nearly 12 times more likely than a white man to be sentenced to prison for drug offences. A black woman is nearly five times more likely to go to prison than a white woman.

In a separate study of data from 43 of the largest U.S. cities, the Sentencing Project found that the rate of drug arrests for African Americans increased by 225 percent, compared to 70 percent among whites over the same 23-year period, despite the absence of any statistical evidence that the rate of drug use in each community had changed.

In 11 cities, the 45-page study, "Disparity by Geography: The War on Drugs in America's Cities", found that black arrest rates grew by more than 500 percent over the period.

"Urban black Americans have borne the brunt of the war on drugs," said Michael Tonry, a professor of criminal law at the University of Minnesota associated with the Sentencing Project. "They have been arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned at increasing rates since the early 1980s, and grossly out of proportion to their numbers in the general population or among drug users."