Pubdate: Tue, 07 Aug 2001
Source: Greenville News (SC)
Copyright: 2001 The Greenville News
Author: Ethel W Piper
Cited: Police Executive Research Forum
The Sentencing Project


Roger Owens, president of Save Our Sons, was right on target in his July 26 
article calling for an in-depth study of the startling difference in white 
and minority incarceration rates. In Greenville County, minority men make 
up about 10 percent of the general population, but 58 percent of our prison 
population (1997 figures from South Carolina Commission for Minority 
Affairs). If we understood and addressed the problems indicated by this 
statistic, we would provide needed services, save a lot of broken lives and 
reduce tax dollars spent on prisons.

A crucial question which Owens raises is the extent to which the factors 
are not social but result from unfairness in the justice system. The recent 
case of a white driver who hit a black pedestrian in Clemson does not add 
to one's confidence in colorblind justice.

It is encouraging that nationally, the Police Executive Research Forum 
recognizes the problem at the police level, calls it "racially biased 
policing" and, in a report, makes nearly 50 recommendations to help police 
departments to address it. Police departments which pretend that the 
problem does not exist now lose credibility daily.

The Sentencing Project reports: African-Americans make up 13 percent of 
drug users, 35 percent of those arrested for possession, 55 percent of 
those convicted for possession and 74 percent of those imprisoned for 
possession. The problem does not stop with the police. It is past time to 
start addressing "racially biased" prosecution and sentencing.

Ethel W. Piper,
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