Measured Against Reality

Friday, September 08, 2006

The War on Drugs: America's Apartheid

I do not hide the fact that I hate our current drug policy. The more I learn about it, the more it disgusts me. So that’s why I’ve compiled some facts about race, drugs, and apartheid.

African Americans constitute about 12% of the American population, and around 13% of drug users, nearly the same number, which is what you’d expect. Additionally, 9.7% of blacks use drugs, compared to 8.1% for whites, again similar numbers, in line with what expectations. So you’d expect that the rates of incarceration for possession drug possession for blacks and whites to be similar. But they’re not. Blacks make up 35% of those arrested for possession, 55% of those convicted, and 74% of those sentenced. How, exactly, in a fair society, would 13% of drug users make up 74% of those sentenced for drug violations? And how can 35% of arrests make up 74% of inmates? This is nothing but institutionalized racism.

In South Africa during Apartheid 851 per 100,000 black males were incarcerated. Currently in the United States, under the banner of the “War on Drugs” 4,919 per 100,000 black males are incarcerated. Nearly 1/3 of black men in their 20s are in prison, on probation or parole. Our institutionalized racism is worse than the worst post-slavery institutionalized racism.

More African Americans are in jail now than were enslaved in the 19th century. We’re currently beating our own institutionalized racism.

There is simply no way to justify this. Societal factors such as poverty-prone minorities being more likely to commit crimes cannot go far enough to explain the huge disparity between blacks and whites in prisons. We should be absolutely outraged. Many prominent black figures are, but the general public should be too. Democrats, the champions of the underprivileged, have a chance to actually help them. But they won’t, because we’re too committed to this insane “war” that helps no one and hurts hundreds of thousands.

My take-home message is to get pissed off about this, and to get other people pissed off about it too, because nothing will change if we remain silent and complacent.

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  • Wow. that post is an eye-opener. Where did you get those statistics?

    By Anonymous Dave Munger, at 8:09 AM, September 08, 2006  

  • Dave, I got them from a few different places. I think that all of them come from official government reports (such as the Department of Justice), but I could only find some through second sources. But since they were reliably reported several times I felt they were accurate.

    By Blogger Stupac2, at 8:27 AM, September 08, 2006  

  • You might be interested (since you are interested in questions of racial equality) in the question of sentences involving the death penalty:

    He holds up Alabama as an example and then provides statistics for the other states. Short version:

    Using in (5) a value of 7.5 for the black to white per capita homicide ratio, R, we find the probability, pB , of a random death-row inmate in Alabama being black to be 0.729. That is, "on average" we should find 72.9 percent of Alabama's death row to be black. If the Alabama justice system were bias free, the most probable number of blacks in its 183 prisoner death-row would be (0.729)(183) or 133. With only 86 blacks under sentence of death, Alabama's death row is too white -- much too white!

    It just so happens that Pennsylvania alone out of 50 states has more blacks than whites on death row, when compared to the number of murders committed.

    Well, why is that? There is a _probable_ good reason, which will be left as an exercise for the reader, but you might consider the fact that much goes into any conviction. In the case of drug possession:

    1. What drugs? Pot or Cocaine or Crack?

    2. Is this a repeat offense? Blacks commit much, much more crime than whites, and so are more likely to have a record.

    3. Were there exacerbating circumstances? Did the sentence for drug possession coincide with DUI, robbery, etc?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:20 PM, September 08, 2006  

  • Not only that, it is institutionalized ninja-ism. The swat teams get paid from what they rob from alleged drug dealers. So hoards of swat teams now are pillaging and looting the country. With so much to plunder it is hardly possible not to indoctrinate oneself with the statement that they (all alleged drug dealers, guilty or not) are dirty little scum that should be eradicated anyway.

    America, land of the free, where all is prohibited. (except when you are rich scum).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:07 PM, September 08, 2006  

  • Those statistics are totally accurate. I recently encountered those same shocking numbers in No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System.

    However, something I recommend even more highly than reading No Equal Justice, is to see "The War on Drugs", a Dutch documentary (in English, don't worry) covering the whole gamut of criminal-industrial complex issues.

    Google Video Link:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:21 AM, September 09, 2006  

  • Some other statistics are that:

    -the U.S. has the highest prison population in the world (2 million, and growing fast).

    -over half of incarcerations are for non-violent offenses (mostly drugs), and violent criminals are being released b/c of overcrowded prisons.

    -it costs more to keep someone in prison than it does to send someone to college (or pay for drug treatment).

    -nationally, for every one black man who graduates from college, 100 are arrested.

    By Anonymous More food for thought, at 6:25 AM, September 09, 2006  

  • This is something we still don't understand! I live in South Africa where privileged and prominent blacks run our government but and I say but they are constantly under fire for corruption, theft and embezzlement. Even our chief of police is currently being investigated by his own people of colour. Never have has so much gone missing of our taxes in the history of the South African governance. Our drug problem has increased by 68% and crime is at its highest ever. I'm not in any way racist and I'm very pleased we have a different government from the past evil. I just read newspapers and wonder what we have now is different but not as we expected or hoped for. So America check out the reality of this situation and don't call it racist! find some other explanation for this delema its not normal.

    By Anonymous Modern South African, at 12:41 AM, November 01, 2006  

  • Ok, I write at the risk of sounding racist which however I'm not!!!
    Where are the values, morals and discipline in the areas in the USA that have the greatest crime rates? Do people not want a better life and to better themselves and their circumstances? Or are they too dim to try? Is their culture preventing them from living the American dream. Which is possible still even nowadays. Why do so many African Americans wind up drug dealers, drug users and common criminals? Its not the politics its the common social mentality of "ease". I say this as we all know that when you flunk at school you are looked down on so you head towards others that have done the same then... hay its "easy" cheat and get expelled. now your mother is angry as she had hoped you would get a good job. So you are now feeling guilty and go out to get "easy" money to show her. Drugs are "easy" you know a few dudes who can set you up they loiter at the school gate. before you know it the police get wind of your dealing and prison it is. Simple way out for many. Now you have street cred and your childhood friends have moved on to becoming IT engineers, Lawyers, Doctors etc Things you may have become if you chose to. These careers are not only available to the rich, but likely to make you rich in time to come not overnight. So to take that first failure and use it as a lesson or stepping stone in life and try and try again it will be hugely beneficial to overcome future obsticals and be a success. Teachers are to blame for lack of encouragement and direction. They think..."That black kid can't speak English too well so... well, ignore him and focus on the cute looking cleaver ones."
    Obama Barack isn't doing too badly he had support from those around him! Now look at the gentleman he is today where are the others in cells? Perhaps, they call themselves unprivileged because they won't strive to be better. Go for it Obama you are an example to us all. America needs to reprogram schools and set about with some positive encouragement and discipline for all. Back to basics.

    By Anonymous Wallnut, at 3:34 AM, November 02, 2006  

  • I would like to know what support you have for this claim: "More African Americans are in jail now than were enslaved in the 19th century." I've heard that before, but if you could please tell me the source I would appreciate it.

    By Blogger stoogie, at 8:05 AM, March 31, 2008  

  • is terrible see how many lives has been ended for this war, in cases like this, is where I support the legalize of this, well at least of the weed.

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