Posted May 9, 2008 – For those who think that the disproportionate number of African Americans who get arrested and locked up is bona fide proof that Blacks are more likely than Whites to commit crimes, a new study shows why such claims are so bogus.
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Human Rights Watch, an international, independent nongovernmental organization, found that Blacks are arrested and imprisoned for drug-related crimes at a much higher rate than White offenders, even though Whites commit far more drug offenses in the United States. In fact, the group says in its report, Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States, a Black man is 12 times more likely to be sent to prison for a drug offense than a White man, and a Black woman is five times more likely to go to jail for a drug offense than a White woman.
In 16 states, Blacks get prison time for drug offenses at a rate 10 to 42 times higher than their White counterparts, the study says.
Such conservative commentators as Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Neal Boortz and Ann Coulter consistently argue that racial profiling by police is justifiable because Blacks commit more crimes. But as groups like the NAACP, the National Action Network and the ACLU repeatedly have pointed out, if cops are only seeking criminal behavior among Black motorists and in Black neighborhoods, those arrested, and ultimately incarcerated, will be African Americans. And, as many civil rights leaders and legal scholars note, in addition to often racist police officers, the American judicial system has a fair share of racist prosecutors and racist judges who are all too willing to convict Black defendants. Two-fifths of Black inmates are in prison for drug crimes, compared to one-fourth of Whites who are drug offenders.
A study by the independent Sentencing Project, released along with the Human Rights Watch report, found that drug arrests among inner-city Blacks shot up 225 percent since 1980, compared to a 70-percent spike among Whites.
"The alarming increase in drug arrests since 1980, concentrated among African-Americans, raises fundamental questions about fairness and justice," said Ryan King, policy analyst for The Sentencing Project and author of the study, Disparity by Geography: The War on Drugs in America's Cities. "But even more troubling is the fact that these trends come not as the result of higher rates of drug use among African Americans, but, instead, the decisions by local officials about where to pursue drug enforcement.”
One in 15 Black men are locked up in the United States, compared with one in 106 White men, the Pew Center on the States, a research group found recently.