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Unequal under Law: Race in the War on Drugs 49893rd Edition
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Randall G. Shelden
November 8, 2009
According to the latest national figures, the incarceration rate of racial minorities continues to dwarf the rate for whites. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in June, 2008 the overall incarceration rate for black males was 4,777 (per 100,000) compared to a rate of only 727 for white males. Black females had an incarceration rate of 349 compared to 93 for white females. The rate for Hispanics fell in between at 1,760 for males and 147 the females. It reminds me of the phrase popular in the 1960s: "If you're white, you're alright; if you're brown, stick around; if you're black, stay back."
When it comes to drug offenses, the rate differential is off the charts, with black offenders constituting up to 90% of prison admissions on drug convictions in states such as Illinois, Maryland, South Dakota and Utah (according to a Human Rights Watch study). Also, racial differences in the rate of drug offenders sentenced to prison are huge, with Illinois a prime example (a rate of 1146 for blacks and only 20 for whites). Nationally, the rate for black males for drugs is 482 compared to just 36 for whites. These are figures from the mid-1990s, but the most recent figures continue to show large racial disparities. For instance, a new report by the Sentencing Project (April, 2009) shows that of all the drug offenders currently in prison as of 2005, 43% were black, 32% were Hispanic and 23% were white. In the federal system 82% of all crack cocaine cases in 2006 were black. Another Sentencing Project report noted that "Between 1994 and 2003, the average time served by African Americans for a drug offense increased by 62%, compared with an increase of 17% for white drug offenders.Read more ›