Measured Against Reality

Friday, August 31, 2007

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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6 Comments:

  • 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?
    Why, it's simple.

    1) Those 13% made selling drugs their trade

    2) They sell the drugs, not use them
    3) Most of them are repeat offenders because of the n1.

    So why is that surprising? And why do you get pissed about it? I highly doubt that incarceration rate has anything to do with skin color directly. What people really need to answer is why some communities tend to sustain the antisocial/criminal and racially segregated lifestyle that leads to high conviction rate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:04 AM, August 31, 2007  

  • The article uses plain easy to understand hard numbers and you STILL find a way to twist it into some apologistic defending the system crap. Anon STFU. The article said users not sellers (and even if it did do you think whites aren't selling drugs, are u that much of either a liar or a complete dumbass) It's quite simple no need for conjecture or other ridiculous speculations. It is racism if 13 per cent of the users consititute only 35% of arrests yet constuitute 74% of innmates what else could it be. If they are only 35 percent of arrests then there are groups getting arrested at a much higher rate 65% but getting a pass WTF

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:56 AM, August 31, 2007  

  • You cannot compare the South African Apartheid Era, nor it's jailing system to modern day United States.

    In the Apartheid Era in SA, only political prisoners were jailed. Those like Mandela who spoke out against the tyranny, were the ones who were jailed...because being black in a SA jail was torture. I have seen the SA prisons in person, I have met former inmates...and they did not live through the civilized version of jail that you have come to know and understand as America's jailing system.

    How much do you know about the Apartheid Era? Blacks were displaced and kicked out of there homes so whites could live there, and they were not given an alternative by the government..they were just told to move or die.

    While the statistics and theory's you pose are relevant and eye opening, I think much more research is needed before one can point the finger to a racist regime. Some individual's that wield certain power may be racist, but they are old and have a smaller mindset for diversity..I guarantee you will see more tolerance, change and solutions in the future

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:25 AM, August 31, 2007  

  • I'm inclined to believe the numbers are due to a combination of people not having the means to defend themselves in court along with the fact that poorer neighborhoods are more likely to have people selling drugs out on the street corners.

    Wealthy people don't buy their drugs that way, their dealers make house calls. It's very unlikely that police are going to come across a deal in progress when it's conducted inside your home versus out on the street.

    I'd like to see that statistics broken down by socioeconomic status and not skin color.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:09 PM, August 31, 2007  

  • To start with, I don't think it's a black problem as much as it is a ghetto culture problem. That's not to say that racism in the system doesn't exist, as it clearly does in some cases.

    Anyway, I'm not going to defend the system, but there are some other factors to consider:

    There is higher crime rates in ghetto areas, which is often made up of predominately black people. Not just drug related crime, but crime in general. This is a cold hard fact in many, if not the majority of major population centers. I don't think you can dispute that in this country, poverty leads to higher crime This can lead to a greater and more strict enforcement of all laws, including drug laws. Because of that, it only makes sense there could be more convictions and arrests (proportionally and possibly numerically). It can also be that many people are caught commiting other crimes, ans then are found to have drugs on them, or be drug related. That is, someone may be arrested for stealing and then also be arrested for drug possession. There is much research that shows a significant number of people arrested for something are also drug users, as opposed to "normal", otherwise law abiding citizens. That is to say, people who steal are much more likely to be drug users than those who don't steal.

    Another factor, based solely on my perception, is that suburban and "white" drug use seems to be more of the softer (prescription drugs, pot, etc, as opposed to crack and other "hard" drugs) drug use variety. There also seems to be much less drug related crime in the suburbs as well as predominately white population centers. That is to say, there's a much lower rate of violent crime, robberies, etc.

    One of the biggest factor I think however is the simple fact that in the aforementioned ghetto areas, you literally have people selling drugs on the streets and on street corners in the open. This makes them very easy targets for arrest - either by law enforcement watching them, or going undercover.

    Again, I'm not trying to defend the system, as it does appear to often be racially charged, especially I think when it comes to the prosecution side of things. I think there are probably also more white judges who are more likely to be more strict towards black offenders, especially repeat offenders - as opposed to maybe a white teen (or just a younger white person in general) who they percieve as making a mistake and may go lighter on them thinking they will learn their lesson.

    And on a related note, albeit a specific isolated situation, i just read a study which showed that 81% of the crimes at the nearby suburban mall near here (and one of the more popular in the region) are committed by black people (shoplifting, public disturbance, etc). They (black people) make up 2% of the population of this suburb. Then something like 8% are committed by white teens under 18, for petty shoplifting. The remaining non-black crimes were mostly public disturbance crimes, often for fighting. They also prosecute all offenders - the malls rules (not individual stores) dictate that all crimes be reported and have violators arrested. And before they instituted rule, my friend was arrested for stealing batteries. As crime went up, they instituted the no tolerance rule. I know it's not directly drug related (though the study showed a significant number of violators also had drugs on their persons), but still very interesting numbers in my opinion. It could also explain partially the higher rate of lack people arrested on drug charges - that is, maybe many of the convicted drug violators were initially arrested on another charge such as stealing. It sort of also backs up my earlier comment about ghetto areas having a higher crime rate. Now this is in a well to do suburb, but the majority of the crimes are committed by black people from the ghetto and lower income areas. Another friend of mine who works at the mall also had his car stolen twice in the winter, in less than a month. Both times the car was found in the ghetto. Talking to other people, he discovered this a very common occurrence in winter of stolen cars at the mall. They're often found in the ghetto, as some people (white or black) seemed to apparently be more willing to steal a car and risk jail than pay the $1.75 for the bus. This may also account for the more strict sentencing of black criminals. I can only assume a judge would come down harder on someone who brings crime away from their local areas. (ie, bringing crime from the ghetto into the suburbs) Quite frankly, I don't have a problem with this. There has also been a growing number of violent crimes in this suburb committed by people from the ghetto and lower income neighborhoods - black or white (or latino, asian, etc). Again, it's more of a ghetto culture problem than a black problem, it's just that black people make up a higher percentage of these areas as opposed to the more well to do suburbs and downtown areas.


    Basically, what I am trying to do is simply point out that there's much more to the numbers and lots of intangibles that you seem to be unaware of, or are simply ignoring.

    Also, please not that I'm not trying to blame blacks specifically, but rather the ghetto culture, white or black. It just happens that often the ghettos is primarily made up of black people.

    Apologies for the long post, but hopefully you approve it for posting despite its long length, and the fact it may seem to go against what you're saying.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:02 PM, August 31, 2007  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:18 AM, October 24, 2011  

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