National drug arrests skewed by race

Blacks have been arrested nationwide on drug charges at higher rates than whites for nearly three decades, even though they engage in drug offenses at comparable rates, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

Blacks have been arrested nationwide on drug charges at higher rates than whites for nearly three decades, even though they engage in drug offenses at comparable rates, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

Using data obtained from the FBI, the report reveals the extent and persistence of racial disparities in US drug-law enforcement. The data also show that most drug arrests are for nothing more serious than possession.

The 20-page report, Decades of Disparity: Drug Arrests and Race in the United States, says that adult African-Americans were arrested on drug charges at rates that were 2.8 to 5.5 times as high as those of white adults in every year from 1980 through 2007, the last year for which complete data were available. About one in three of the more than 25.4 million adult drug arrestees during that period were African-American.

“Jim Crow may be dead, but the drug war has never been colorblind,” said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch’s U.S. Program and author of the report. “Although whites and Blacks use and sell drugs, the heavy hand of the law is more likely to fall on Black shoulders.”

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