December 04, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Recently, the Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a statutorily mandated committee, released a report confirming that the war on drugs significantly undermines African Americans and their communities.
According to the Huffington Post, drug crimes are largest cause of the increase in incarceration rates over the past several decades. In Illinois, African Americans make up 15 percent of the population and 61 percent of the incarcerated population.
Many believe that higher rates of drug-related incarceration match up with the rates of drug use. However, studies have shown that this is not true. In fact, drug use remains consistent across race and ethnicities.
Recently, the drug enforcement has been particularly aggressive. The Huffington Post notes that 72 percent of Cook County, Illinois's charges were related to drug matters in 2005. Most charges were non-violent Class 4 Felonies -- the lowest level drug felony.
The recent report shows that black males in the state are more likely to be arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for low-level drug crimes than white males. The following findings were confirmed in the committee's study:
- In Cook County, 75 percent of arrests are for Class 4 drug possession felonies. In cases where possession is the only charge, blacks are eight times more likely to face jail time than whites.
- Whites are twice as likely as African Americans to be diverted from criminal court and sentenced to court supervision or probation.
- Of those individuals with zero or one prior conviction, blacks are three times more likely as whites to be jailed for Class 4 drug possession. Furthermore, among first-time offenders, whites are more likely to be given rehabilitation services than minorities.
The numbers are especially concerning if you consider the fact that Illinois devotes approximately $1 billion to drug-related corrections. The Huffington Post indicates that this is more than 80 percent of its total correctional budget.
Mass imprisonment breaks down communities where a large number of its members are currently behind bars or have been in the past. Such communities experience greater rates of all of HIV-infection, unemployment, domestic abuse, poverty-level income and other serious consequences. Today, many of these communities are African American.
Fortunately, experts note that diversion programs can significantly reduce incarceration rates and the consequential damage to defendants' communities. Nevertheless, until the criminal justice system actively addresses the findings of this report, African American defendants will continue to be disadvantaged.
If you are facing criminal charges and feel disadvantaged in your case, you probably need a knowledgeable criminal law attorney on your side. A lawyer can help protect your rights.