Pubdate: Wed, 08 Aug 2001
Source: Village Voice (NY)
Copyright: 2001 Village Voice Media, Inc
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: Robert's published letters have passed the 320 mark


In response to Jennifer Gonnerman's "Tulia Blues" [August 7]:

Although the massive Tulia drug bust that devastated a small Texas town is 
perhaps the most egregious case of racial profiling, the problem is by no 
means limited to the South. U.S. government statistics reveal that the drug 
war is being waged in a racist manner throughout the nation.

Although only 15 percent of the nation's drug users are black, blacks 
account for 37 percent of those arrested for drug violations, over 42 
percent of those in federal prisons for drug violations, and almost 60 
percent of those in state prisons for drug felonies.

Support for the drug war would end overnight if whites were incarcerated 
for drugs at the same rate as minorities. Racially disproportionate 
incarceration rates are not the only cause for alarm. Putting nonviolent 
drug offenders behind bars with career criminals is a dangerous 
proposition. Prisons encourage violent habits and values rather than reduce 
them. Most drug users hold jobs and pay taxes.

Rather than waste scarce resources turning potentially productive members 
of society who use "recreational drugs" (other than alcohol and tobacco) 
into hardened criminals, we should be funding cost-effective treatment.

Robert Sharpe, The Lindesmith Center Drug Policy Foundation, Washington, D.C. 
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