From The New Jim Crow: The Color of Justice

One more “teaser” post of salient quotes from Michelle Alexander’s powerful book on the racial dynamics of the criminal justice system.  Today’s quotes come from chapter 3  “The Color of Justice,” which discusses more explicitly the racial dynamics of the War on Drugs:

  • Human Rights Watch reported in 2000 that, in seven states, African Americans constitute 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison.  In at least fifteen states, blacks are admitted to prison on drug charges at a rate from twenty to fifty-seven times greater than that of white men.  (98)

  • Although the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide ware white, three-fourths of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been black or Latino.  (98)

  • [A report] published in 2000 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that white students use cocaine at seven times the rate of black students, use crack at eight times the rate of black students, and use heroin at seven times the rate of black students.  The same survey revealed that nearly identical percentages of white and black high school seniors use marijuana.  The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reported in 2000 that white youth aged 12-17 are more than a third more likely to have sold illegal drugs than African American youth… White youth have about three times the number of drug-related emergency room visits as their African American counterparts.  (99)

  • 1 in every 14 black men was behind bars in 2006, compared with 1 in 106 white men.  For young black men, the statistics are even worse.  1 in 9 black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five was behind bars in 2006, and far more were under some form of penal control– such as probation or parole.  These gross racial disparities simply cannot be explained by rates of illegal drug activity among African Americans.  (100)

  • Homicide convictions [and violent crime in general] account for a tiny fraction of the growth in the prison population.  In the federal system, for example, homicide offenders account for 0.4 percent of the past decade’s growth in the federal prison population, while drug offenders account for nearly 61 percent of that expansion. (101)

Tomorrow I will post some reactions to this alarming data in the form a few proposals that might combat the rampant misuse of police power in the War on Drugs.

Suggested Link From


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness



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