From Morgan Whitaker, “Criminal injustice: The percentage of African-Americans in prison,” on MSNBC:
“Our nation’s prison population has more than quintupled,” she said. “And this is due largely to the war on drugs and the ‘get tough’ movement. The drug war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color even though studies have consistently shown now for decades that contrary to popular belief, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but by waging this drug war almost exclusively in poor communities of color, we’ve now created a vast new racial under-caste.”
Since 1971, when President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, there has been a 700% increase in the U.S. prison population. Today, African-Americans are also more likely to spend time in prison for drug related offenses than their white counterparts. According to the Sentencing Project, African-Americans make up 12% of the nation’s drug users, but represent 34% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 45% of those in state prison for such offense as of 2005.
In her book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” Alexander chronicled how black youth are less likely to be drug users. White students use cocaine and heroin at seven times the rate of black students, and use crack at eight times the rate, according to a study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker behind the documentary “The House I Live in,” thinks that Americans have been swindled into believing these higher incarceration rates among minorities are justified by drug use.
“Once you know that fact, it reminds you how much propaganda has hoodwinked us for 40 years about these drugs,” he added. As of 2002, more than 80% of Americans sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws were African-Americans, according to the Sentencing Project, which also has found black drug offenders have a 20% greater chance of being sentenced to prison than white drug offenders, while Hispanics has a 40% greater chance.