Pubdate: Mon, 05 Jan 2015
Source: Providence Journal, The (RI)
Copyright: 2015 The Providence Journal Company
Author: Joseph H. Friedman


In his Jan. 3 Commentary piece ("Talking police and Newtown's 
millions"), Chris Powell writes of the police's response to blacks: 
"Young black men commit a hugely disproportionate amount of crime."

Unfortunately, this is only one side of a very stacked equation. The 
vast increase in incarcerations over the past decade is because of 
the "war on drugs, " with half of all drug arrests since 2010 being 
for marijuana (National Association for the Advancement of Colored 
People Fact Sheet 2014). While blacks and whites have the same rate 
of marijuana use (according to American Civil Liberties Union and the 
NAACP), The New York Times reported on June 3, 2013 that they are 
four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession or sales.

The Center for American Progress reports that blacks are three times 
more likely to be searched during routine traffic stops. Seventy 
percent of school arrests are of black students. The U.S. Sentencing 
Commission notes that blacks are sentenced to 10 percent longer terms 
for the same federal crimes, that blacks are 20 percent more likely 
to go to prison and are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory 
sentences. Black former prisoners have a wage trajectory 21 percent 
lower than white former prisoners.

Mr. Powell has judged the book by its cover and ignored the contents. 
It is difficult to recognize and overcome biases we learn from our 
childhood, but until we open our eyes, there will be no progress. 
Journalists should not write with blinders on.

Joseph H. Friedman, M.D.

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