Pubdate: Sun, 08 Apr 2001
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2001, New Haven Register
Author: Rick Scavetta


NEW HAVEN  At a Green Party forum Saturday afternoon, Alderman Jelani 
Lawson, D-2, said the state's drug laws unfairly target minorities in a 
failing war on narcotics.

Lawson rattled off state law and drug offense statistics for about two 
dozen New Haven County Greens gathered at Green Party headquarters on Park 

Under state law, drug offenders arrested near schools get longer sentences. 
Because urban areas like New Haven have a higher school density, drug 
arrests in the city carry stiffer penalties than in the suburbs, Lawson said.

"A person in New Haven gets a worse deal," Lawson said.

"Ninety-five percent of New Haven is covered by mandatory minimum drug 

With blacks and Latinos making up much of the urban population, the school 
proximity laws also jail more minorities than whites, Lawson said.

According to a July 2000 state Department of Corrections report, 12,657 of 
the state's 17,459 prisoners were either black or Hispanic, roughly 
two-thirds of the prison population.

Lawson, 26, is also executive director for A Better Way Foundation, a 
non-profit organization that advocates a public health approach to drug 
problems. Lawson said he spends much of his time educating political minded 
groups like the Greens, hoping to develop support to change Connecticut's 
drug laws.

The event was one of several forums being held by the Green Party's 
Community Issues Committee to learn more about political issues that affect 
New Haven residents, party member Jon Halle said.

"The drug war is a natural for us, the Green Party is opposed to the war on 
drugs," Halle said.

The Green Party platform under presidential candidate Ralph Nader called 
for an end to the war on drugs, and the release of non-violent drug offenders.

The party also suggests the decriminalization of drug possession and 
regulating drug distribution.

During the first forum Feb. 24, University of Massachusetts economics 
professor Rick Wolf, the Green Party's 1985 mayoral candidate, spoke about 
Yale's relationship with the city. Next Saturday, the topic of the forum 
will be recent problems at New Haven public schools.
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