Thursday, April 02, 2009

If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues...

So, I was reading Parade Magazine this weekend, and the cover story was, What's Wrong with Our Prisons? by Senator Jim Webb. Normally when I get my Sunday paper, I just take out the coupons and throw the rest of it into the recycle bin. Maybe people like me are part of the reason newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur? But this cover story caught my eye, so I decided to read it.

Senator Webb spent a lot of time talking about how the U.S. incarcerates a lot of its citizens, way more than most other industrialized nations. He also focused on the War on Drugs, and how that was contributing immensely to the number of people we have in prison. There was one statistic that stood out to me.

Even though drug usage rates are essentially the same between black people and white people, Black people make up 37% of the people arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted on drug charges and 74% of those sent to prison on drug charges.

Now, we are only 12% of the population. And remember, I just said that blacks and whites use drugs at the same rate. This means that a black person that uses drugs is three times more likely to be arrested, five times more likely to be convicted, and six times more likely to go to prison on a drug charge than their drug using white counterpart.

WTF is up with that? I say "F" when I'm mad, and I have to say reading this kind of stuff makes me mad.

I applaud Senator Webb for writing this article, so much so that I sent him a message at the link that I posted above. I also think it's pretty cool that Parade would make this their cover story. I always thought their gig was more along the lines of interviewing the women of Desperate Housewives about how they manage to "have it all," but I'm glad to see them tackling such an important topic in such a direct way.

As always, I welcome your comments.


  1. Anonymous11:13 AM

    Even if whites and blacks use drugs at the same rate, drug charges are not all about use. "Drug charges" includes a wide range of violations, including distribution and manufacturing. Also when you refer to prison sentences, keep in mind that there are different mandatory minimums dependent on what type of drug is involved, how much of that drug is involved, and what you're doing with that drug. I'm not saying that blacks are necessarily more involved than whites in the drug crimes that carry mandatory prison sentences, only that there is more to take into consideration with these figures than your stated fact that both blacks and whites use drugs at the same rate. Of course though, I definitely do agree that there is a general bias against blacks in our justice system.

  2. The mandatory minimums are inherently discriminatory. Even with the adjustments made this last November, it still takes less crack cocaine than powder to get a similar prison sentence, for example. The crack form of cocaine is found to be predominantly sold in the black community even though it it more often sold to white drug users. The idea that blacks and whites (or Hispanics or other minorities) use drugs the same is almost irrelevant. The majority of the drug laws are aimed at those who sell the drugs. If you want to see the biases in the justice system played out the best, follow the "war on drugs" and see who is ultimately a victim of the system.

  3. Reading through your older posts. I commented on one as Melissa. THIS. This post is so true. I've been trying to find the statistic on arrests for Blacks vs. their incarceration rate. I know a guy, White, who has been arrested multiple times for drugs, even running from the police and causing a wreck, yet has never served a day in jail. I seriously doubt if he was Black that would have happened. Racism is still a big issue in the judicial system and in the US' drug policy.