Pubdate: Wed, 11 Apr 2001
Source: Saanich News (CN BC)
Author: Rana Phagurra


By the end of 2001, America will have locked up two million people behind 
bars - this number corresponds to 25 per cent of the estimated world prison 

In 1960 America's prison population (not counting illegal immigrants or 
minors) stood at 333,000 and rose over the next two decades to 474,000 by 
the end of 1980. However, in the next two decades that followed, this 
number quadrupled. A probable explanation for this extraordinary jump is 
America's policy on drugs.

Media stories about the evil of drug abuse led to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act 
of 1986. Apparently the pressure to do something about the problem was so 
great, that it was enacted hurriedly without benefit of committee hearings.

Nearly one in four inmates is now serving time for some kind of drug 
offence, meaning that the number of incarcerated drug offenders in 2001 
will be roughly equivalent to the entire inmate population of 1980.

More disturbing, even though the drug usage rate for young blacks and 
whites is about the same, blacks are far more likely to go to prison than 
whites. Blacks account for 13 per cent of those who use illegal drugs but 
74 per cent of those sentenced to prison for possession.

This discrimination means that more than one in 10 black males in their 20s 
and early 30s are locked up. During the 1990s in Texas, if you counted the 
number on parole and probation as well as those incarcerated, one in three 
young black men was under some form of criminal justice control. In other 
cities like Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, half or more were.

In all but four states, prisoners who have been convicted of felonies lose 
the right to vote; in 12 states, a felony can result in lifetime 

As a result of these rules, there are states, particularly in the South, 
where a quarter of the black male population is permanently disenfranchised 
- - they have lost forever, the right to vote.

These numbers seem to suggest that the "war on drugs" is really a euphemism 
for a program directed at people of colour. Perhaps the media should drop 
its pretense and start using the phrase concentration camp in lieu of the 
word ghetto or reservation.

After watching the movie Traffic, I left the theatre with the impression 
that it was a whitewash. 2001 will see further progress towards a time when 
a third of that nation's males are not allowed to vote. What remains to be 
told to the general public is a story of how the ruling class engaged in a 
policy of racial persecution, and the extent to which the news and 
entertainment media helped.

Rana Phagurra, Saanich
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