Pubdate: Fri, 29 Dec 2006
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2006 The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Robert Sharpe


U.S. government statistics confirm that the drug war is being waged 
in a racist manner ("Young black men need help," Opinion * 
Commentary, Dec. 24). According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and 
Mental Health Services Administration, only 15 percent of the 
nation's drug users are black. But according to U.S. Justice 
Department figures, African-Americans account for 37 percent of those 
arrested for drug violations, more than 42 percent of those in 
federal prisons for drug violations and almost 60 percent of those in 
state prisons for drug felonies. Support for the drug war would end 
overnight if whites were incarcerated for drugs at the same rate that 
minority drug users are.

Racially disproportionate incarceration rates are not the only cause 
for alarm. Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, 
joblessness, addiction and delinquency. And incarcerating non-violent 
drug offenders alongside hardened criminals is the equivalent of 
providing them with a taxpayer-funded education in anti-social 
behavior. It's time to declare peace in the failed drug war and begin 
treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public 
health problem that it is.

Robert Sharpe

Arlington, Va.

The writer is a policy analyst for Common Sense for Drug Policy.
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