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April 14, 2009

New report from The Sentencing Project on the drug war's racial dynamics

Continuing its well-established traditions of producing interesting, informative and timely reports on hot criminal justice topics, the folks at The Sentencing Project have a new study looking at race and the drug war.  Here are the details from the text of an e-mail I just received:

For the first time in 25 years, since the inception of the "war on drugs," the number of African Americans incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses has declined substantially, according to a study released today by The Sentencing Project. It finds a 21.6% drop in the number of blacks incarcerated for a drug offense, a decline of 31,000 people during the period 1999-2005.

The study, The Changing Racial Dynamics of the War on Drugs, also documents a corresponding rise in the number of whites in state prison for a drug offense, an increase of 42.6% during this time frame, or more than 21,000 people. The number of Latinos incarcerated for state drug offenses was virtually unchanged.

The study notes that the black declines in incarceration represent "the end result of 50 state law enforcement and sentencing systems" which need to be examined individually. But overall, the decline in blacks incarcerated for a drug offense follows upon declining arrest and conviction rates for blacks as well. The study suggests much of the disparity resulting from the drug war has been a function of police targeting of open-air drug markets. As crack use and sales have declined, or moved indoors in some cases, law enforcement activity may have been reduced correspondingly.

Because of the rising number of whites in prison for a drug offense, the overall number of persons serving state prison time for a drug offense remained at a record 250,000 during the study period. The white increase may be related in part to more aggressive enforcement of methamphetamine laws, according to the study. While methamphetamine is only used at significant levels in a relative handful of states, data from states such as Iowa and Minnesota show a substantial influx of these cases during this time period.

The analysis by The Sentencing Project also documented a sharp contrast between state and federal prison populations. While the number of persons in state prisons for a drug offense rose by less than 1% during the study period, the increase in federal prisons was more than 32%. These latter changes are attributed to ongoing aggressive enforcement of drug laws, including application of harsh mandatory sentencing policies. Despite declines in the use of crack cocaine, federal prosecution and incarceration levels for crack offenses remain high and have a stark racially disparate impact.

April 14, 2009 at 04:06 PM | Permalink


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Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 14, 2009 7:16:21 PM

I am glad to see the often heavy-handed folks at the Sentencing Project introduce some balance in their reporting of "racial dynamics" of drug arrests. The seemingly disproportionate arrest rate for African-Americans has always been about the proliferation of open-air, urban, drug markets in the decade of the 90's. The law-abiding members of the community rightly demanded protection from these thugs. Now that black dealers have followed the lead of white dealers and brought their activities indoors, the arrest rate has plummeted.

There is a lesson here for all that instinctively impute racial motives in all police work.

Posted by: mjs | Apr 15, 2009 10:19:54 AM

I am really disappointed, as hundreds are aout the overlook of other offenders that are not involved in drugs. These cases and race recipients of the high sentencing under three strikes is overwhelming. It is understood when a non black male especially is under Dr. care and/ are under mental health care is charged and sentenced. Black men have the most mental history in the U.S. Yet the excuse is it is so hard or not likely that these people that is sentenced without drug offenses should not get the help. How unjust is that? All the three strikes from 1996 should have been dealt with by now, and it should be on who entered first and down the line. I see the system setting on this because they know that no one wants to challenge California. Can't Obama see that this is racial intention and the will to incarcerate these people and act like they are not there. Out of sight out of mind, and to keep scareing the public about the releases of certain prisoners, not some. It is not fair to the children or families and the Prisoners who deserve to be let out, and if so needed, to be placed under tracking programs, in programs, and training programs. We use money to do everything else , we have enough resources to enjoy until the end of this world. The system used here in California is one of anti-slavery, and no one want to tackle it because it is so much under the government and its power. Too much power. Yet there are hundreds of black men tha suffer more mental abuse and damage than they did while out. The racist Guards, and employees, and the power to the Hispanics and white racist, and others to continue to set up, attack, and keep punishing the black men of California. This is illegal, yet nothing is being done about this, and if it is tried, the prisoner and his families suffer great harm in some way. The circle goes round and round. If you do not have the money, you rot. Devein Payne did not kill, mame, shoot, sell drugs, take drugs, drink, smoke, or rape anyone, he simply tried to scare off a reject in some way from coming back around his home, and used scare tactics, but the case was built to make him appear as a murderer, or potential. Not noting that he did not kill anyone and no proof of that being done to anyone else. The detective was allowed to bring in hear-say after using his scare tactics on a few. The attorney kept voicing how much hge would work harder the more money he was paid. He also voiced to the bail person how much interest he had in the females of Devein. He did not fight at all. The Judge would not allow him to change attorneys, because he felt that attorney was good enough and it was denied. All my life savings went into this and now I am much older and will most like for sure be dead soon. Where will my son go if he has not been killed in prison. This is a worst case of injustice on his behalf. Now he sits in prison for years awaiting 25 to life, and being abused and thrown in isolation and receiving much more mental abuse than he has ever caused anyone. A photo was produced in trial about his ex girlfriend about some buises on her arms. Why? no one cared to follow up. She was angry at him because their relationship was sour, and she had set him up, and he called me to leave without harm, and she blocked his way, and he tried to remove her without attacking her from his exit. I do know that he was set up by a grown up criminal to protect her sons. Not to mention that his ex would bruise herself and put it on my son. Told by her ex best friend. Yet these types of sentencing are built up, written into file erroneously and we suffer for years in all ways of life, including financial failure, and rip offs by the prison system, in phone calls, foods, ordering polices, transportation. My son might be moved farther away in a couple of weeks due to prison policies, and we have no recourse, he is already too far away, and now to move him farther, possible san quentin, something he has not the mentality to deal with. and I cannot get there. When does this stop. WHEN DO WE STOP PUTTING THESE MEN IN ANTI-SLAVERY TO SOOTHE ONES RACIAL HATE. THERE IS NO REASON FOR THIS TYPE OF SENTENCING. MURDERERS, RAPISTS AND OTHERS DO MORE THAN HE HAS ALL HIS LIFE. LET THE SENTENCE FIT THE CRIME AND STOP USING ABUSIVE MEASURES TO PUNISH DUE TO WHO YOU ARE. IT NOT ONLY HURT THE PRISONER, BUT THE CHILDREN AND PARENT, ME, HIS FATHER DIED, AND HE HAS NO GRANDFATHER AND HE NEVER SEE HIS CHILDREN OR CAN HELP. THIS IS ONE MAN THAT DESERVES TO BE DECLARED SENTENCE SERVED AND LET HIM COME HOME AND MAKE HIS MARK AND IMPACT IN HELPING TO DETER OTHERS FROM PRISONS AND JUVY. HE IS CAPABLE OF MUCH IF THIS WOULD NOT BE IMPOSED ON HIM. WHERE IS THE HELP FOR US. WHERE? I am an American born citizen, that will be taking for certification in Investigation in Dec. 2009. I will become a student, and have had some legal courses in college. I am the aging and short lifespan mom of the person and prisoners I write and loose sleep and my mind about. I appreciate this site. I never saw it before, and I prayed last night to find something or someone that I hope will intervene. I wanted so much to reach the White House with these issues. Yet we are never heard. I am a human and we all make some type of mistakes. It is fitting for some to receive high prison sentencing, yet the three strike generalizes much and carelessly in over sentencing hundreds. If a person has never experienced what we have for lifetime abuses of power, then you cannot speak in many ways for us. There is good and there is bad laws. Due to a kidnap and murder, this three strike law was birthed. My son did neither. I have a son in law enforcement, and my boy friend now is a police officer for over 20yrs. He has support. He is kind and only was trying to protect some friends from Japan, at that time.

Posted by: BARBRA V. | Nov 9, 2009 3:15:49 PM

I dont understand the world we have come to live in and the judicial system we have come to depend on, anymore. I am 22 years old and for 22 years i have had a father who has missed every birthday, every volleyball game, and almost every day of my young life. the reason for this? He is in prison. He has been in prison since i can remember. For crimes he didnt comitte, and it breaks my heart. He is a strong african American man. He is not weak by any means and he is very intelligent. He has messed up in life, but he would never hurt me or any other woman he cares about or has crossed the path of for that matter. He never had a chance. what kind of world are we living in when a person is still judged and hated because of what they look like. I just dont understand how a couple of pathetic and juvenille, non- violent crimes can put you in prison for so long. I dont understand because i see murderers, kidnappers, and child molesters get a get of jail free cards. They live next door to us. They watch our children and pray on the weak, and instead of keeping those people in jail, we instead keep the ones who wont hurt anybody locked up because they are different. My mother is a white woman. She told me once that being different was a good thing, and that meant i was special in Gods eyes. I used to believe that, but not anymore. Too many ignorant people in the world who only want to bring a black man or woman down as low as they can. my father is a prime example of this. Because of this " system" my father will never see his little girl grow into a beautiful woman. he has NEVER been there for me. I wish i could take back time sometimes... I wish i could take back the hate i see in peoples eyes. because I am different... because my Father is different.

Posted by: Chellae G. | Sep 29, 2011 6:43:13 AM

Hi. I came across your blog after googling a name. I read the story above from April 2009, and was wondering if you could forward my e-mail address to the mother of Devein Payne, her name is Barbara Williams. Your site is very thorough and a lot of good information. Do you know if this man is still in prison?

Thank you.

Holly Bridges

Posted by: Holly Bridges | Sep 8, 2012 12:46:06 AM

Holly Bridges if your still out there i can put you in contact with Devein Payne and his mother. Yes he is still incarcerated for fighting. My email is [email protected]

Posted by: caroline knight | Jul 1, 2013 11:03:10 PM

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