From yesterday’s New York Times:
More than two decades after President Ronald Reagan escalated the war on drugs, arrests for drug sales or, more often, drug possession are still rising. And despite public debate and limited efforts to reduce them, large disparities persist in the rate at which blacks and whites are arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses, even though the two races use illegal drugs at roughly equal rates.
Two new reports, issued Monday by the Sentencing Project in Washington and by Human Rights Watch in New York, both say the racial disparities reflect, in large part, an overwhelming focus of law enforcement on drug use in low-income urban areas, with arrests and incarceration the main weapon.
It’s essential that this type of research continues, although I think we know now what to expect when scholars take a look at the racial breakdown of our prison population. Our press and policy makers need to be aware of the impact this lock ’em all up mentality is having and if that means documenting these same depressing disparities every six months, then so be it.
I also think this shows the need for some new angles in the broader struggle for criminal justice reform. Hmmm, maybe some sort of innovative film project could be helpful?