Pubdate: Tue, 18 Apr 2000
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2000 Chicago Tribune Company
Contact:  435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611-4066
Author: Robert Sharpe, Students for Sensible Drug Policy George Washington 


WASHINGTON  - It is not surprising that African-American women are 
disproportionately singled out for strip searches at airports (Editorial, 
April 12). Nor is it remarkable that these searches are not justified by 
higher rates of contraband seizures. The drug war is arguably waged in a 
racist manner, with African-Americans bearing the brunt of zero-tolerance 
law-enforcement efforts. Violent crime continues to trend downward, yet the 
Land of the Free recently earned the dubious distinction of having the 
highest incarceration rate in the world. Non-violent drug offenses account 
for the majority of federal incarcerations. While only 11 percent of the 
nation's drug users are black, blacks account for 37 percent of those 
arrested for drug violations, more than 42 percent of those in federal 
prisons for drug violations and almost 60 percent of those in state prisons 
for drug felonies.

Here in the District of Colombia, 50 percent of 18- to 35-year-old black 
men are under some form of court supervision or being sought on arrest 
warrants. Nationwide, 32 percent of young black males in the age group 
20-29 are under some type of correctional control.

Minorities are fueling the burgeoning for-profit prison system. Few 
Americans seem to care that the drug war has created a prison-industrial 
complex that rivals the Cold War's military-industrial complex in terms of 
influencing public policy.

Support for the failed drug war would end overnight if whites were 
subjected to airport strip searches and imprisoned at the same rates as 
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