Pubdate: Mon, 25 Aug 2003
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2003 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Bryan Brickner
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


Seeing is believing in the war on drugs, and now, thanks to the cameras, it's
even clearer.

The Aug. 13 editorial [''Seeing is believing in crime-fighting cameras''] was
accurate in the direction it took, but wrong in its conclusion. Fighting crime
with cameras is here to stay, but it should be real crime and not a moral issue
like drug use and abuse.

In 2001, for example, real criminals--those committing property and violent
crimes--were arrested only 23 percent of the time in Illinois. That means while
the police were arresting drug criminals, which make up half of all arrests in
Illinois, the real criminals were never arrested 77 percent of the time.

That is a criminally inclined system, where the real criminals are never
arrested three out of four times.

As the Sun-Times reported, the new police surveillance camera at Augusta and
Pulaski caught Marcus D. Jackson smoking dope. Upon a search, the police also
found one pill of Ecstasy, a controlled substance. Jackson was arrested and
charged with a misdemeanor, cannabis possession, and a felony
controlled-substance violation.

Jackson, whose picture was published in the Aug. 12 issue of the Sun-Times, is
22, a convicted felon on parole for drug dealing and possession of a stolen
vehicle. He is yet another Illinois African-American male who is going to jail
for a drug crime.

We shouldn't be surprised. According to a 2000 Human Rights Watch report, the
Land of Lincoln leads the nation in racial disparity when it comes to
incarcerating drug offenders. Instead of all drug offenders going to jail, in
Illinois, race seems to determine who serves time. For drug offenders, Illinois
incarcerates 57 black males for every one white male.

It seems Jim Crow dies a hard death. The racial disparity points to a real
problem in fighting drugs through incarceration: The only ones going to jail
for drug offenses are black males. The surveillance camera helped to catch
another one. Seeing is believing.

Bryan Brickner, Chairman

Illinois NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)
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