Example Of Essay On Racial Disparity In Drug Use Arrest

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Drugs, Race, Social Issues, Crime, America, Criminal Justice, Law, Disparity

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/01/07

Racial disparity and racism are two different things. Racism otherwise called discrimination, is an insidious social problem in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society like USA. It arises from the belief that one’s race is dominant to others. Usually the dominant race discriminates against the racial or ethical minorities. On the other hand, racial disparity, does not necessarily mean discrimination. It simply means the differences noticed in the two races. Criminal justice experts describe racial disparity in terms of legal and extra-legal factors. Criminal records and seriousness of crime are considered as legal factors. Though American blacks constitute only 12% of the US population, they account for 40% of the crime reported in US and for 50% of those on death row (Cliffnotes.com 2015). Hallfors et al. 2007 observed high risk for HIV and STD in Hispanics with high risk behaviours, while American blacks had a high risk even with normal behaviour. Even when the rate of drug usage is same in both the black and white communities, the blacks are four times more likely to get arrested than the whites. The reason for this is not completely understood. Experts suggest that differential involvement, individual racism and institutional racism, can contribute towards the drug related arrests of blacks. Again the reasons for committing crimes are different in Hispanics, African-American and whites. The crime rates in African Americans were most of the time tied to poverty and unemployment. Majority, in the black community belong to the low income group. Individual racism is contributed by the bigotry of authorities like police officers, prosecutors, defence attorneys, judges, probation officers, parole officers and board members, who discriminate against the minorities. Institutional racism occurs when the statutes, classifications and practises of an institute impart discrimination of racial minorities. (Cliffnotes.com 2015)
Does a racial disparity exist in terms of drug usage? In a study that examines the differences in adolescents’ use of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs among U.S high school, seniors: On an average American Indians showed highest level of tobacco, alcohol and drug use. This was followed by the Cuban Americans, whites, Mexican Americans and Puerto Rican seniors, in descending order. Latin Americans, African Americans and Asian American seniors reported the lowest level of drug use (Bachman et al.2002). In yet another study, to identify ethnic and racial differences in use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana; there was no difference noticed, in use of marijuana in whites and black men, however black women had higher use of marijuana than white women (Kayes et al.2015).
Does racial disparity exist in terms of drug arrest? Imprisonment rate of black Americans were 5 to 7 times higher when compared to whites. Majority of these arrests were related to illicit drugs. Blacks were overrepresented in the Seattle drug arrest. Neutral factors like crime rate or community complaints had less role to play in these arrest. Instead racial disparity in the drug arrest was affected by other factors like: offenders, outdoor drug venue, and the geographical position of police officers in racially heterogeneous population. An organisation perception decides who should be arrested and who should not (Beckett, Nyrop and Pfingst 2006). The tendency of the enforcement agencies, to focus on outdoor drug activity could be an important reason for increase in the arrests of African Americans and Latinos (Beckett et al. 2005). Arrest based on smoking marijuana in public view, was the major misdemeanour arrest made by the New York City police, and majority of those arrested were blacks. Again, after the arrest, blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be detained, prior to sentencing, when compared to their white counter parts (Golub, Johnson and Dunlap 2007). The racial disparity associated with conviction of the blacks, could be a result of bias. Blacks and Hispanics have higher rate of robbery and homicide victimisation than whites (Sampson and Lauristein 1997). The sentencing project 1990, report, indicates that one in four American blacks are under some form of criminal justice supervision. There is also an increase in the number of African American women arrest. Majority in the black community, have low income and are often denied the benefits of social services such as mental health services, and other supports that address social problems. The African American youths also face strict scrutiny from police, and have fewer counselling and treatment resources (Sampson and Lauristein 1997). Even when, national household survey, reported blacks as 13% of the total drug users, they represent majority of the drug use arrest (Sampson and Lauristein 1997).
Does racial disparities exist in terms of incarceration for drug related crimes? The rate of increase in black men incarcerated in state prison was more than 8%, from 1983-1993. Likewise the rate of increase in black women incarcerated in state prison was more than 5 %. (Rehavi and Starr, 2012). On an average blacks receive 10% longer sentences, when compared to whites arrested for the same crime. This disparity was found to arise at the initial charging choices made by the prosecutors. Prosecutors were more likely to file charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences, against black, when compared to whites (Rehavi and Starr, 2012). Incarceration has thus become a powerful tool in reinforcing social stratification and inequalities (Wakefield and Ugger 2010). Many white American resent work done to overcome discrimination against the blacks. Stereotyping of black criminality was often supported by whites involved in crime control policies. This implicit bias may have led to blacks being treated discriminately (Tomy, 2010). In a study by Rutger Race, blacks in prison concede that, they face discrimination in drug use charges. When prosecution charges blacks for drug crimes, the whites are not charged in similar circumstances. Further most of the black suspects are poor to obtain a private lawyer and are represented by public defender, and often felt pressurised into entering guilty pleas. They also dissatisfied that, when judges are less likely to release blacks on a promise to appear on bail, the chances for release of whites were high (Ford 2010).
Conclusion: The antidrug policies of Reagan and Bush administration, has done little to curb drug use and crime rates. Instead it has increased the adversities for the black and hispanic community. When these people are arrested on possessing a small amount of marijuana, it causes dire collateral consequences that affects their eligibility for public housing, student’s financial aid, employment opportunity, child custody determination and migration status. During the period of 2001-2010, 8.1 million marijuana related arrests were made. Of these 88% of the arrest were made for simply having marijuana. Billions of tax payers dollars are wasted on these arrests, in spite of which, the drug problem still seem to persist.


Cliffsnotes.com,. 2015. 'Racial Disparities'. Retrieved March 31, 2015 (http://www.cliffsnotes.com/more-subjects/criminal-justice/criminal-justice-in-the-us/racial-disparities).
Hallfors, Denise Dion, Bonita J. Iritani, William C. Miller, and Daniel J. Bauer. 2007. 'Sexual and Drug Behavior Patterns and HIV and STD Racial Disparities: The Need for New Directions'. Am J Public Health 97(1):125-132?
Bachman, J G et al. 2002. 'Racial/Ethnic Differences in Smoking, Drinking, and Illicit Drug Use Among American High School Seniors, 19762000.’ Am J Public Health 81(3):372­377.
Keyes, Katherine M. et al. 2015. 'Racial/Ethnic Differences In Use Of Alcohol, Tobacco, And Marijuana: Is There A Cross-Over From Adolescence To Adulthood?'. Social Science & Medicine 124:132­141.
Beckett, Katherine, Kris Nyrop, and Lori Pfingst. 2006. 'Race, Drugs, and Policing: Understanding Disparities in Drug Delivery Arrests*'. Criminology 44(1):105-137.
Beckett, Katherine, Kris Nyrop, Lori Pfingst, and Melissa Bowen. 2005. 'Drug Use, Drug Possession Arrests, And The Question Of Race: Lessons From Seattle'. Social Problems 52(3):419-441.
Golub, Andrew, Bruce D. Johnson, and Eloise Dunlap. 2007. 'The Race/Ethnicity Disparity In Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests In New York City'. Criminology & Public Policy 6(1):131-164.
Sampson, Robert J., and Janet L. Lauritsen. 1997. 'Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Crime and Criminal Justice in the United States'. Crime and Justice 21:311.
Tonry, M. 1994. 'Racial Politics, Racial Disparities, And The War On Crime'. Crime & Delinquency 40(4):475-494.
Rehavi, M. Marit, and Sonja B. Starr. 2012. 'Racial Disparity In Federal Criminal Charging And Its Sentencing Consequences'. SSRN Journal 12(002).
Wakefield, Sara, and Christopher Uggen. 2010. 'Incarceration And Stratification'. Annual Review of Sociology 36(1):387-406.
Tonry, Michael. 2010. 'The Social, Psychological, And Political Causes Of Racial Disparities In The American Criminal Justice System'. Crime and Justice 39(1):273-312.
Ford, Gary. 2010. 'The New Jim Crow: Male And Female, South And North, From Cradle To Grave, Perception And Reality: Racial Disparity And Bias In America's Criminal Justice System'. Rutgers Race & the Law Review 11(323).

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