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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

'Drug Offenders in American Prisons'

Jonathan Rothwell at Brookings:

Drug offenders in American prisons: The critical distinction between stock and flow: There is now widespread, bipartisan agreement that mass incarceration is a huge problem in the United States. The rates and levels of imprisonment are destroying families and communities, and widening opportunity gaps—especially in terms of race.
But there is a growing dispute over how far imprisonment for drug offenses is to blame. Michelle Alexander, a legal scholar, published a powerful and influential critique ... in 2012, showing how the war on drugs has disproportionately and unfairly harmed African Americans.
Recent scholarship has challenged Alexander’s claim..., but the standard analysis—including Alexander’s critics—fails to distinguish between the stock and flow of drug crime-related incarceration. ...
The picture is clear: Drug crimes have been the predominant reason for new admissions into state and federal prisons in recent decades. ...

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In other work, Pfaff provides grounds for believing that the aggressive behavior of local prosecutors in confronting all types of crime is an overlooked factor in the rise of mass incarceration.
More broadly, it is clear that the effect of the failed war on drugs has been devastating, especially for black Americans. As I’ve shown in a previous piece, blacks are 3 to 4 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, even though they are no more likely than whites to use or sell drugs. Worse still, blacks are roughly nine times more likely to be admitted into state prison for a drug offense....
A dangerous combination of approaches to policing, prosecution, sentencing, criminal justice, and incarceration is resulting in higher costs for taxpayers, less opportunity for affected individuals, and deep damage to hopes for racial equality.

    Posted by on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 10:56 AM Permalink  Comments (7)


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