The endless, unwinnable war

Adam Doster

No no no, not that war. This one. 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. In 2006, according to federal data, drug-related arrests climbed to 1.89 million, up from 1.85 million in 2005 and 581,000 in 1980 […] More than four in five of the arrests were for possession of banned substances, rather than for their sale or manufacture. Four in 10 of all drug arrests were for marijuana possession, according to the latest F.B.I. data. Apart from crowding prisons, one result is a devastating impact on the lives of black men: adult black males are nearly 12 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug convictions as adult white men, according to the Human Rights Watch report.

Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.
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