Is this really news? Why is everyone breathlessly reporting that there is a difference in prosecution and sentencing based on race in the U.S. as if that’s news? I’m glad the ACLU and other groups are focused on this. But at some point we actually need to stop going over statistics and do something about the obvious racial disparities in sentencing and prosecution in the criminal justice system.
“Black Americans were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups used the drug at similar rates, according to new federal data,” reported the New York Times yesterday. So what else is new? Will they report today that water is wet.
On February 14, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “prison sentences of black men were nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes in recent years, an analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found.”
That’s been going on years and years and years. When Attorney General Eric Holder brought up that blacks receive longer sentences than whites (during a speech at the National Action Network convention in April) for same crimes he acted as if he was announcing new information? Why?
We knew that law enforcement focuses on blacks and Latinos more from the stop and first statistics. The New York City Police
Department is embarked on one of the largest racial profiling police state campaigns ever conducted. The only probable cause? Skin color. From 2002 to 2011, blacks and Hispanics made up 90% of those stopped. Further 88% of stops – 3.8 million people – were innocent. Targeting minority communities more than others is nothing knew in the criminal justice system.
“Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report also found that marijuana possession arrests now make up nearly half of all drug arrests, with police making over 7 million marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010. “The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests” is the first-ever report to examine nationwide state and county marijuana arrest data by race,” wrote the ACLU this morning.
Sure it may be the first study of its kind but it’s certainly not the first time we’ve seen a racial disparity in the criminal justice system. That consistent disparity has always been the standard.
Just as in the case of the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine which CONTINUES and is now at 18:1, there has always been a sentencing disparity in black and white in the U.S. Sure the disparity went from 1:100 to 1:18 but shouldn’t it be 1:1.
“The war on marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color,” said Ezekiel Edwards, of the ACLU. “State and local governments have aggressively enforced marijuana laws selectively against Black people and communities, needlessly ensnaring hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system at tremendous human and financial cost.”
Now hopefully we’ll see a strategy that changes these numbers rather than going over them again and again year after year.