The number of Black inmates jailed for drug offenses has dropped for the first time since crack cocaines was introduced, but what about their counterparts?
Sentencing Project (based in Washington) reports that the number of Black incarcerated drug offenders fell 22 percent, according to The Washington Post. In 1999, there were 145,000 of them in jail, but that total shrunk to 113,500 in 2005.
However, The same can’t be said for White drug offenders who saw a 43 percent increase over the same period. Their numbers inflated from 50,000 in 1999 to more than 72,000 in 2005.
The report shows a marked racial shift in drug-related incarcerations. Sentencing Project said the numbers could be a reflection of several factors: reduced crack cocaine use, law officials utilizing prison alternatives for drug offenders and police cracking down on methamphetamines. According to Sentencing Project, meth is mostly used and dealt by White people; almost 20 percent of those offenders used it in the month before they were locked up.
"I have no doubt that crystal meth explains some of the white increase, but I’m not ready to say it’s the reason for all of the white increase," Sentencing Project Executive Director Marc Mauer told The Post. "It’s also hard to imagine that [drug courts] are not having some effect. Most drug courts are in urban areas where African Americans live."
Marc also said that Black drug dealers pushing crack could have just moved their operations indoors, as opposed to selling their drugs on the street. He also theorized that because so many of those drug offenders have already been put behind bars, there are just less of them left on the street now.
Despite the decline, Black prisoners still made up 45 percent of drug offenders in state prison during 2005. They accounted for 58 percent in 1999.
– Sonya Eskridge