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U.S. Prisons Thriving on Jim Crow Marijuana Arrests

November 20, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

A startling scandal in our so-called criminal justice system is largely unnoticed by most Americans because the media in all their forms ignore it. But the American Civil Liberties Union does not.

According to a June 3 report from the ACLU, the “over-policing” of marijuana use combined with “staggering racial bias” are leading to appallingly high numbers of incarcerated African-Americans:

“Between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. That’s one bust every 37 seconds and hundreds of thousands ensnared in the criminal justice system … Marijuana use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession” (“The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Report,” aclu.org, June 3).

Citing the ACLU’s grim statistics, an August report from The Economist says, “blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession … in some places their arrest is over eight times more likely.

“People with criminal records risk losing public benefits, being kicked out of public housing and suffering permanent gaps in employment and earning prospects” (“Waking life,” The Economist, Aug. 24).

In other words, their lives could be essentially over.

The leading, continuing source of documented information on this brazen American prejudice is marijuana-arrests.com, “an online library about marijuana possession arrests, race and police policy in New York City and beyond.”

The site is part of the Marijuana Arrest Research project, which examines “race, police policy, and the growing number of arrests for marijuana possession and other victimless crimes in large U.S. cities, especially New York City.” The organization’s co-director is Harry G. Levine, a professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center at City University of New York.

Furthermore, Levine, whom I interviewed when I was at The Village Voice for more than 50 years, has definitively reached a national audience in the Nov. 18 edition of The Nation magazine with his story, “The Scandal of Racist Marijuana Arrests — and What To Do About It.”

I admire The Nation for publishing this extensive array of revelations, but since its circulation is not extensive, I have chosen vital parts of it here as a public service. (As I used to tell my journalism students, I sure enjoy breaking scoops, but when another source has a crucially important story, it’s my responsibility to help circulate it.)

Writes Levine: “The vast majority (76 percent) of these arrested and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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