U.S. Commission On Civil Rights Announces Topic for 2014 Enforcement Report, "Narcotics Policing: Discretionary Or Discriminatory?"

Jun 20, 2013, 16:57 ET from U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United States Commission on Civil Rights has announced that its 2014 annual statutory enforcement report will be "Narcotics Policing: Discretionary or Discriminatory?"

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The Commission observed that the national effort to reduce illegal drug usage, sale and related crimes began in the United States 40 years ago and has escalated ever since.  With respect to incarceration for drug offenses alone, the Commission observed that in 1980 roughly 41,100 people were incarcerated, whereas today nearly half a million people are serving terms for non-violent drug offenses.  In fact, prosecutions for all offenses have increased, resulting in an enormous rise in federal, state and local prison populations that have spiraled up from about 325,000 people in 1972 to reportedly more than 2.2 million people today -- a nearly 700% increase.

Surveys by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have shown that rates of drug use by whites and blacks are very similar.  Yet, although whites, including Hispanics, account for more than 78 percent of the U.S. population and blacks less than 13 percent, black arrest rates for drug law violations are almost two and a half times greater than those of whites.  The Commission has undertaken this investigation to determine whether or not these striking disparities in arrest and incarceration rates are the result of discrimination, and will issue a report on its findings.  During the investigation, the Commission will also draw on outside expertise in criminal justice policy, research, and state, local and federal law enforcement.

Chairman Castro stated, "I'm pleased that a unanimous, bi-partisan Commission has voted to examine whether our nation's drug policy is disparately enforced against communities of color. Like other issues our Commission has recently tackled, this one also affects the daily lives of individuals, families and communities."

SOURCE U.S. Commission on Civil Rights