New Report: Blacks Disproportionately Busted for Drugs

Human Rights Watch released a new report this week,
Decades of Disparity, Drug Arrests and Race in the United States (pdf.) The report analyzes the arrest statistics released by the FBI.

Adult African Americans were arrested on drug charges at rates that were 2.8 to 5.5 times as high as those of white adults in every year from 1980 through 2007, the last year for which complete data were available. About one in three of the more than 25.4 million adult drug arrestees during that period was African American.

Via Drug War Chronicle: [More...]

More than 25.4 million people have been arrested on drug charges since 1980, the analysis found. About one-third of them were black, although African-Americans make up only about 13% of the population and 13% of drug users.

"Jim Crow may be dead, but the drug war has never been color-blind," said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch's US Program and author of the report. "Although whites and blacks use and sell drugs, the heavy hand of the law is more likely to fall on black shoulders."

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    And what if the drug laws were MEANT to target (5.00 / 0) (#14)
    by SeeEmDee on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:39:23 PM EST
    minorities? Specifically? Deliberately? With 'malice, aforethought'?

    The early drug laws of this country were promulgated by people who were obsessed with eugenics and with racial 'purity'. They considered opium usage on the part of Whites as being 'degenerate', causing them to fall prey to 'the Yellow Peril'. They thought cocaine made Blacks insane rapists of White women, and while under the influence could not be killed by .32 caliber bullets, thus causing a change to .38's. And as to 'mair-ee-wanna', that was thought to make Mexicans into machete-wielding dervishes intent on killing everyone in sight. such were the views promoted by the early DrugWarriors, and such were the basis for our laws.

    Don't take my word for it, go read USC Law School's Professor Charles Whitebread's speech to the 1995 annual California Judges Association conference. It's as plain as day that bigotry, not science, underpins our drug laws, and little else. This study only serves to reinforce that.

    that would be needed to evaluate whether there is actually any injustice involved.

    The writeup says "although African-Americans make up only about 13% of the population and 13% of drug users."  However, it fails to tell us what percentage of drug dealers, traffickers, and other related criminals are African American.  If this percentage is greater than the 13% share of the overall population, one would expect that the arrest rate would also be elevated.

    We progressives should remember that African Americans who engage in drug trafficking or dealing prey on the weakest members of their community far worse than the Klan or other assorted racists do.  Arresting them  and throwing the book at them is the progressive thing to do.


    Wait for the fireworks. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by oculus on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 11:36:34 AM EST
    You Must Be Kidding (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 12:05:28 PM EST
    This is not news. You hardly seem progressive to me.

    Tell you what (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 12:58:16 PM EST
    when sentences for selling a grand worth of crack are comparable in any way to the penalties for stealing 10,000 times that amount from aging pensioners then I'll be in your corner, until that day arrives though I'll be hesitant to judge.  

    Guy rips off millions from teachers, nurses, etc. and he probably does a year or two in a minimum security country club, Guy sells a couple grams of cocaine that happens to be mixed and baked and he's locked up with violent offenders for a decade or more how is that justice- personally I don't see how selling drugs is more devastating to a community than destroying the retirement of millions but hey that's just me.


    Well, to start with, drug trafficking (none / 0) (#6)
    by Think Before You Type on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:04:18 PM EST
    in African-American communities is closely associated with many innocent people, including children, being killed and maimed every day.  Just listen to the news.

    I'm not sure why it's relevant that there are white collar criminals who rip off the poor; we should throw the book at them also!


    Thats right (none / 0) (#7)
    by maddog on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:09:00 PM EST
    Don't prosecute one crime because the penalties of another are not strict enough.  Great logic.

    I'm all for prosecution (5.00 / 0) (#9)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:11:36 PM EST
    I just think we need to change the sentencing guidelines.

    Progressively (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:16:59 PM EST
    we need to look at the underlying circumstances- while dealing and trafficking isn't acceptable it is at times one of the only economic escape routes- there's a reason that crime falls during good times and rises during bad regardless of one's approach to policing.

    Exactly, it's not race, it's poverty... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Slado on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:51:16 PM EST
    If you looked at this from a poverty, parents in the household, education, abuse perspective it would have the same results.   The sad fact is if you're born into a bad situation you are more likely to turn into a drug dealer then not.  No matter what color you are.   That is why in the midwest more poor whites are in jail for meth related activities then rich whites.   It's not color it's the environment you grow up in.

    Racialy charged studies are counter productive.  If there was a stat that showed black college students are more likely then white college students to be arrested for underage drinking that'd be another matter.


    I would love to see (none / 0) (#16)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:56:11 PM EST
    a study that tracked poverty and drug dealing over the decades to see if and how strongly they relate to each other.

    Why stop at drug drealing (none / 0) (#17)
    by Slado on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:14:14 PM EST
    All crime sprouts from poverty.  Only the cool criminals in the movies are rich bored Ocean 11 types.

    Well, not all crime sprouts from poverty, (none / 0) (#20)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:20:47 PM EST
    but a lot seems to.

    If there were no poverty, would there then be no criminal dealers?


    Too much money in the game... (none / 0) (#24)
    by kdog on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:56:26 PM EST
    to ever be rid of dealers...lucky for me:)

    Though I'd surmise a decrease in poverty would lead to a decrease in property crime.


    My thoughts exactly. (none / 0) (#25)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 03:04:43 PM EST
    what you need to see tracked (none / 0) (#18)
    by wystler on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:15:45 PM EST
    ... should include sentencing (supervision/probation/incarceration) spread over racial/ethnic and class

    i suspect more eyes might open


    You know, I would like to see that. (none / 0) (#21)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:36:54 PM EST
    Every time that subject is brought up here the only numbers anyone finds are way too broad or just plain faulty like the 13% tidbit presented in this thread.

    I don't even know where to start (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Claw on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:37:54 PM EST
    Really.  Spend a day talking to anyone who practices criminal law.  Spend a morning in court and compare the ratio of AA defendants to white defendants.  Then evaluate their respective representation.  The next article you read chronicling an absolute mess of a drug bust--look at the race of the defendants.  
    A good place to start is the killing of a 92 year old woman here in GA after an illegal, no-knock warrant. One guess as to her race.

    Agree. (1.00 / 0) (#4)
    by maddog on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 12:14:57 PM EST
    Throw the book at them.  

    Indeed. (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:11:27 PM EST
    What the report fails to mention is that most drug arrests are not for using, most drug arrests are for dealing, trafficking, etc.

    However, if there is a study that more than 13% of those arrested for using are black, then that could be indicative of a problem.

    To those who now want to scream at me, understand that I'm not saying there is no racism in how our drug laws are written/enforced, I'm saying that this tidbit (the 13% issue) does not in any way indicate any such racism.


    I think its more in line (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Socraticsilence on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:14:38 PM EST
    with profiling- if the arrests are legitimate I have no problem with prosecution (sentencing is another story)- if your black and you deal you're probably going to get busted- if you're a white college student not only are you less likely to get busted in the first place you're also more likely post-arrest to be able to get off with a warning.

    and if you are arrested (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by wystler on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:17:34 PM EST
    ... if you're caucasian, you're far more likely to see the charge written as possession, and to have your case tracked toward supervision/counselling

    Really? (none / 0) (#26)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 06:33:56 PM EST
    7 White middle-aged men here were caught growing marijuana. They are facing 10 years in prison. No going light on them.

    The jury I served on was for the white girlfriend of a dealer...she was charged with living on the money he received and they were not going easy on her. Our jury hung, so not sure what the eventual outcome was.


    Maybe so, although... (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:17:50 PM EST
    I'm not aware of a study that shows that white college dealers get busted less and treated less harshly than black college dealers.

    Friendly neighborhood... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 01:14:17 PM EST
    reefer man equals Klansman.  Ok.

    Red Meat For Racists (none / 0) (#23)
    by squeaky on Fri Mar 06, 2009 at 02:50:51 PM EST

    crack versus powder (none / 0) (#27)
    by diogenes on Sat Mar 07, 2009 at 08:19:49 PM EST
    Penalties are higher for crack because it is more disruptive and addictive.  Powder was around for years without the same violence/psychosis in users.  Powder did not cause the level of prostitution that crack did, one indicator of the relative problems with each.  Anyone who equates the two lives in a fantasy world.