Commentary: Unfair Enforcement of Drug Laws

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 16, 2008

Anyone who spends time on college campuses knows that drug use and abuse there is often rampant. But it’s rare that children of privilege dealing or using illegal drugs face arrest, much less prosecution. The drug raid at San Diego State made headlines precisely because it’s so rare.

But that’s not true in poor black neighborhoods. Two recent reports, one by Human Rights Watch, the other by The Sentencing Project, document how blacks have been disproportionately targeted in the nation’s three decade long “war on drugs.”

Even though blacks and whites use illegal drugs at about the same rates, the reports point to law enforcement statistics which show blacks are more than 10 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug crimes as whites.

The huge disparity in enforcement tends to show what African Americans have long believed - that a young black man selling a nickel bag of crack in the inner city of San Diego is more likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and sent to prison, than a young white man selling a kilo of cocaine out of a frat house at San Diego State. That’s unfair and unjust.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.