The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States

The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States

A Look at the Racial Disparities Inherent in USA’s Criminal-Justice System

SOURCE: AP/ California Department of Corrections

Eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and reenergized movement for racial justice in America.

A harrowing article by the Centre for American Progress, written by  Sophia Kerby | March 13, 2012

This month the United States celebrates the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 to commemorate our shared history of the civil rights movement and our nation’s continued progress towards racial equality. Yet decades later a broken criminal-justice system has proven that we still have a long way to go in achieving racial equality.

Today people of color continue to be disproportionately incarcerated, policed, and sentenced to death at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts. Further, racial disparities in the criminal-justice system threaten communities of color—disenfranchising thousands by limiting voting rights and denying equal access to employment, housing, public benefits, and education to millions more. In light of these disparities, it is imperative that criminal-justice reform evolves as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

Below we outline the top 10 facts pertaining to the criminal-justice system’s impact on communities of color.

1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men.

2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the Department of Justice found that blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.

3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated. Black and Hispanic students represent more than 70 percent of those involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement. Currently, African Americans make up two-fifths and Hispanics one-fifth of confined youth today.

4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates. The data showed that 96,000 students were arrested and 242,000 referred to law enforcement by schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those students, black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of arrested or referred students. Harsh school punishments, from suspensions to arrests, have led to high numbers of youth of color coming into contact with the juvenile-justice system and at an earlier age.

5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison. According to the Sentencing Project, even though African American juvenile youth are about 16 percent of the youth population, 37 percent of their cases are moved to criminal court and 58 percent of African American youth are sent to adult prisons.

6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented. While the number of women incarcerated is relatively low, the racial and ethnic disparities are startling. African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated.

7. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

8. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. 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 like to be sentenced to prison.

9. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color. An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Felony disenfranchisement is exaggerated by racial disparities in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Felony-disenfranchisement policies have led to 11 states denying the right to vote to more than 10 percent of their African American population.

10. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison. Evidence shows that spending time in prison affects wage trajectories with a disproportionate impact on black men and women. The results show no evidence of racial divergence in wages prior to incarceration; however, following release from prison, wages grow at a 21 percent slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts. A number of states have bans on people with certain convictions working in domestic health-service industries such as nursing, child care, and home health care—areas in which many poor women and women of color are disproportionately concentrated.

Theses racial disparities have deprived people of color of their most basic civil rights, making criminal-justice reform the civil rights issue of our time. Through mass imprisonment and the overrepresentation of individuals of color within the criminal justice and prison system, people of color have experienced an adverse impact on themselves and on their communities from barriers to reintegrating into society to engaging in the democratic process. Eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and reenergized movement for racial justice in America.

Mandatory Drug Testing for People on Welfare?

Master Sgt. Urbano Sosa demonstrates the job o...

drug testing for welfare recipients and state workers

The mood and suspicion against people who take drugs continues to mount, and like a tsunami that erupts and spreads out across the globe – governments are getting swept up in hate speak and populist agendas -and people who use drugs are in the front of the queue to be kicked when they’re down, poor, struggling or none of the above -just kicked because they are using a substance of their choice.

The UK government has been calling obese people and drug users as undeserving of benefits -pushing forward views already held firmly by Australian governments and, although around 8 states in the US are looking into mandatory drug testing, this current move by Governor Scott of Florida is particularly ignorant and deeply disturbing. Scott wants to pass a bill that forces ALL welfare recipients and state workers to undergo MANDATORY drug testing! A positive result means a loss of benefits from 1-3 years -including stumping up the cash for the test itself. There is hope that the bill won’t succeed as it is clearly unconstitutional, the USA’s fourth Amendment stating people must be suspected before any ‘warrant’ can be issued but it seems it has to be challenged in law by July 1st. However, Arizona currently works with such a law, and although people have to be suspected before they can be drug tested, there are many cases of people being unjustly targeted,  only to lose their benefits from a positive result and, are then unable to seek treatment due to either the lack of services -or the inability to pay for treatment. Most people in the US have to pay for methadone treatment -and how do you do that when you have lost your benefits? These are scary times indeed- article below…

Florida’s Senate has just passed the contentious “House Bill 353”; which requires mandatory drug testing of all welfare recipients.

Scott has already signed an executive order mandating drug tests for state workers. But Republican senators this week fended off bipartisan amendments that would have imposed drug tests for anyone working for a company that receives public funds and schoolchildren in the Bright Futures program. Those amendments were designed to sabotage the bill by spreading the net uncomfortably wide.

If Scott signs the bill into law, it is almost certain to face a constitutional challenge, and the challengers would have a strong case. The only other state to pass a suspicionless drug testing bill for welfare recipients, Michigan, saw its law thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2003 as an unconstitutional violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against warrantless searches. Arizona has a welfare drug testing law, but that law requires probable cause before a drug test can be demanded.

The bill, House Bill 353, requires all adult applicants for or existing recipients of federal cash benefits — the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program — to undergo drug testing at their own expense. If they pass the drug test, the cost of the test is reimbursed by the state. The tests would screen for all controlled substances and recipients would have to disclose any legal prescriptions they have.

If recipients test positive, they lose their benefits for a year. If they fail a second test, they lose their benefits for three years. Children whose parents lose their benefits could still receive benefits if another adult is designated the payee on their behalf.

The bill is set to go into effect July 1, provided Gov. Scott actually signs it and no legal challenge has been filed by that date. >>>

Full story at;

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2011/may/06/florida_legislature_passes_wefare

House Bill 353 can be found here;

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=45214&SessionId=66

<<< GENERAL BILL by Health & Human Services Committee and Judiciary Committee and Rulemaking & Regulation Subcommittee and Health & Human Services Access Subcommittee and Smith (CO-SPONSORS) Corcoran; Costello; Drake; Gaetz; Trujillo

Drug Screening of Potential and Exisiting Beneficiaries of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families:

v Requires DCFS to perform drug test on applicant for TANF benefit;

v requires such individual to bear cost of drug test;

v requires department to provide, & applicant to acknowledge receipt of, notice of drug-screening policy;

v requires department to increase amount of initial TANF benefit by amount paid by individual for drug testing;

v provides procedures for testing & retesting;

v requires department to provide information concerning local substance abuse treatment programs to individual who tests positive;

v provides conditions for reapplication for TANF benefits;

v provides that, if parent is ineligible as result of failing drug test, eligibility of children is not affected;

v provides for designation of another protective payee;

v provides rulemaking authority to department.

Check out this video comment on the bill – click below

http://www.videosurf.com/vembed/1271957601?width=640&height_vs=388

Drug Test State Employees, Welfare Recipients?

Effective Date: July 1, 2011 >>>

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