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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Targeting Blacks: Drug Law Enforcement and Race in the United States

  • Organization: Human Rights Watch
  • Document Type: Report
  • Date Created: Monday, May 12, 2008
  • Submitted: Monday, May 12, 2008
  • Attachment(s): LINK

Targeting Blacks updates our prior report documenting racial disparities among drug offenders sent to prison. It reveals that drug law enforcement in the United States continues to produce extraordinarily high and disproportionate rates of black incarceration, particularly for black men. Based on data on new prison admissions reported by 34 states to the National Corrections Reporting Program for 2003 (the most recent available), our analysis reveals that:

* African Americans constituted 53.5 percent of all persons who entered prison because of a drug conviction;
* Blacks were 10.1 times more likely than whites to enter prison for drug offenses;
* A black man was 11.8 times more likely than a white man to enter prison for drug offenses;
* A black woman was 4.8 times more likely than a white woman to enter prison for drug offenses;
* Among all African Americans entering prison, almost two out of five (38.2 percent) were convicted of drug offenses, compared to one in four whites (25.4 percent); and
* Although still dramatic, the racial disparity in the ratio of black to white prison admission rates for drug offenses in 2003 was in most states less than in 1996. Nevertheless, because of the increase in the disparity in states with large populations such as New York and California, the racial disparity across the 34 states was higher in 2003 than it was in 1996. In 2003, the black prison admission rate for drug offenses was 10. 1 times that of whites. In 1996, it was 9.9 times greater.


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