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Racial Disparities In Drug Crime Essay

2254 words - 9 pages

The past quarter century of American history has been profoundly impacted by the “war on drugs.” Ever since the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 was passed by President Richard Nixon, the number of yearly incarcerations for drug violations has grown exponentially. America’s drug policies have cost billions of dollars and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Americans, yet rates of drug, property, and violent crime have failed to decrease. Yassaman Saadatmand summates the consequences of Nixon’s policies: “Not only has the drug war failed to reduce violent and property crime, but it has also shifted criminal justice resources (the police, courts, prisons, probation officers, etc.) away from directly fighting violent and property crime.” The issue is further complicated by racial inequalities in the rates of drug use and crime. Whereas Whites consist the majority of the population of any state, they are outnumbered by African-Americans in both state and federal prisons (E. Ann Carson 2013). This incongruity is paralleled with many other races, such as an overrepresentation of Native Americans and an underrepresentation of Asians in rates of drug use. What causes this imbalance? What purpose do the higher rates of incarceration for certain minorities serve? As this topic is explored, it becomes evident that the racial disparity in drug crime is perpetuated by America’s legacy of bigotry and racism, capitalism, and a cycle of poverty.
The rates of drug use by race and gender are disproportionate to the rates of incarceration for non-violent drug crimes. There are numerous ways to measure rates of drug usage. A look at lifetime rates may be useful as it shows how much of the population has ever tried illicit drugs. However, looking at use in the past year, or month, can provide detail on how often illegal drugs are used. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides an accurate look at drug use, as, being nationwide, it provides the largest and most diverse sample population. The survey reports the lifetime usage rates of illicit drugs, including marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants, as 50.9% for Whites, 45.1% for Blacks, 58.4% for American Indians, 25.2% for Asians, and 37.2% for Hispanic or Latinos. Stimulant abuse alone demonstrates how large of a divide in usage rates exists between races. 9.07% of White males in the study had used a prescription stimulant for a nonmedical reason in the last 12 months, while only 2.49% of Black males and 4.2% of Hispanic males reported illicit use. Conversely, mixed-race individuals have the highest rates of drug abuse. Looking at nonmedical and illicit drug use among Asians, Pacific-Islanders, and mixed persons, this tendency is evident: “In a sample of youth aged 16–23 years, mixed-race individuals had prevalent rates of lifetime use of methamphetamine (mixed-race: 11.4%, White: 6.1%, Black: 0.5%, Hispanic: 3.4%) and ecstasy (mixed-race:...

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