Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in the African American Community
African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated; that is 60% of 30% of the African American population. African Americas are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. “Between 6.6% and 7.5% of all black males ages 25 to 39 were imprisoned in 2011, which were the highest imprisonment rates among the measured sex, race, Hispanic origin, and age groups." Stated on Americanprogram.org “ The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more likely to be sentenced to prison.” Hispanics and African Americans make up 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population.
In recent years policy attention regarding the crisis of the African American male has focused on a variety of areas in which African American males have suffered disproportionately from social ills. These have included education, housing, employment, and health care, among others. Perhaps in no other area, though, have these problems been displayed as prominently as in the realm of crime and the criminal justice system. African Americans have been affected in this area in two significant regards. First, African Americans are more likely to be victimized by crime than are other groups. This creates a set of individual and community problems which impede upon other areas of productive activity. Second, the dramatic rates at which African American males have come under some form of criminal justice supervision has created a complex set of consequences which affect not only individual victims and offenders, but families and communities as well.A wealth of statistical information is now available to document what a walk through virtually any urban courthouse or state prison displays quite graphically. A courtroom observer in New York, Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles or any other major city will witness a sea of black and brown faces sitting at the defense table or shackled together on the bus transporting prisoners from the jail for court hearings.
In cases of people sentenced to death, racial discrimination in jury selection has played a key role in securing their sentences and racial bias has demonstrably played a part in the selection of individuals for capital prosecution, in the prosecution itself, and/or in the imposition of the sentence of death.Racial disparities in sentencing are consistent with a larger pattern of racial disparities that plague the U.S. criminal justice system from arrest through incarceration (Ashley Nellis and Ryan S. King, 2009). There are stark racial disparities in police stops, frisks, and searches. For example, of the 4.4 million pedestrian stops made by the New York City Police Department from January 2004 through June 2012, 83 percent of the people stopped were African-American or Latino and only 10 percent were white. Blacks and Latinos are arrested at disproportionate rates and are disproportionately represented in the nationwide prison and jail population (D.C. Baldus & C. Woodworth, 2004). For example, Blacks compose 13 percent of the general population but represent 28 percent of total arrests and 38 percent of persons convicted of a felony in a state court and in state prison.These racial disparities are particularly pronounced in arrests and incarceration for drug offenses. Despite similar rates of drug use, Blacks are incarcerated on drug charges at a rate 10 times greater than whites. Blacks represent 12 percent of drug users, but 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and percent of those in state prison for drug offenses.
Overall, the legalization of marijuana, a drug they have punished millions of black men and women by incarcerating them, has now turned into a new business venture for upper class white business owners to capitalize off of the pains of Blacks. Blacks were profiled, incarcerated, stereotyped and criminalized for the exact same drug that whites are now making millions off of. Also, with legalization blacks are still being imprisoned and their convictions are not being overturned or removed from their record. This one conviction has destroyed many lives and still continues to prevent economic, social, physical and mental growth. As long as, the core issue of releasing those affected by theses discriminatory laws is not addressed blacks will continue to be destroyed with the war on blacks.
D.C. Baldus & C. Woodworth, Race Discrimination and the Legitimacy of Capital Punishment: Reflections on the Interaction of Fact and Perception, (2004).
Ashley Nellis and Ryan S. King, the Sentencing Project, No Exit: The Expanding Use of Life Sentences in America 11-14, 17, 20-23 (2009)