CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Report Shows the Racism Behind Drug Sentences

From African-Americans are disproportionately harmed by mandatory-minimum drug sentences, with blacks comprising nearly nine out of every 10 offenders sent to Maryland prisons on such terms, according to a report being released today by a Washington think tank.

The report by the Justice Policy Institute, a research organization that supports alternatives to prison, is to be discussed at a House of Delegates committee hearing today. The committee is considering a bill that would repeal some of the state's mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.

The study urges moving toward a model that offers treatment over incarceration. It notes that despite the racial disparity in sentencing, blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates.

Maryland elected officials have acknowledged that drug use is a public health problem, and, as a result, the state has offered more treatment options to low-level offenders, said Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute.

"But what we need now is the will to change these laws," he said.

The proposed legislation seeks to allow judges discretion in sentencing repeat offenders who commit certain drug crimes. Repealing the minimum-sentencing laws would allow judges to require treatment, particularly in the case of a low-level dealer who sells drugs to support an addiction, said Del. Curtis S. Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat who commissioned the report and sponsored the bill.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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