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Implications Of Racial Factors On Drug Policies

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Within the federal courtroom, is the scene of individuals who lack money and education being fed into a machine just as animals are to make meat. Such a metaphor illustrates the harsh reality of unfair mandatory minimums and drug policies. With racial elements being the fuel to drug policies and laws, an element of modern Jim Crow laws is perceived through double standards and the shaping of the nation’s perspectives through the media. Incarceration is an important element of the criminal justice system; however, prison should not be the only alternative to drug offenders of both high and especially low-level crimes. The mandatory minimum drug policies established by the federal and state governments fail to account for individual offenders’ circumstances and their level of involvement. Assuming that the same sentence is just for all drug offenders, is unjust. These minimum sentences for all drug offenses have fueled American to being at the top of the list for incarceration. One size just simply does not fit all.

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Review of the literature

The historical timeline of drug policies had numerous implications of racial factors. Race was the motivating force behind some of the first laws that aimed to criminalized drug use. In the 1870’s, bans were placed on smoking opium’s not because there was a concern for the Chinese immigrant’s health, but out of fear of the whites mixing races. The alcohol prohibition was to restrain the corrupt desires of the urban Catholics as well as the migrant working middle classes. The most popular recreational drug, marijuana, was banned in the early 1930’s as a tactic to criminalize thousands of immigrant Chinese farm workers.

All of these laws and bans that have been put in place have been continuously ineffective in curbing the desire for being under the influence. They have instead demonized and even outlawed entire populations. The popular refreshing drink, Coca-Cola, was once manufactured containing small amounts of coca extracts. The drink was highly marketed towards professional whites as well as the middle class. When the addictive potential revealed itself over time, producers, as well as medical reformers, called for new guidelines on the distribution of cocaine. The plant, or the users, did not become criminals until there was a panic over the urban blacks using the same drug. Black perpetrated violent assaults on riots in the towns became caused by the influence of the drugs. This southern cocaine prohibition led to the federal regulation of the drug. This event became a widespread example of the Jim Crow politics influencing the nation as a whole. Which, the nation still feels the implications today in the war on drugs. The laws were actively emphasizing the African American cocaine users but did nothing to expose the same drug use to the professional and middle-class whites. There is a double standard for the use of the drug, to say the least. The research behind Cohen’s article is reliable and valid based on historical events. There are also ethnic and racial discrepancies in drug arrests even after the 2014 reclassification of drug felonies into misdemeanors in the state of California. Research is based on all drug arrests made in California during 2011 to ’16 pulled by the California Department of Justice’s Monthly Arrests and Citations Registrar. The racial discrepancies in drug related arrests among blacks, whites, and Latinos were examined directly after the time of arrest, compared to a year after the policy was changed. They found that black and white discrepancies in the monthly felony charges related to drugs declined from eighty-one to forty-four percent and continuously decreased over time. However, there was an instant surge in the relative discrepancy by twenty-seven percent due to a higher rate of white felony offenses being reclassified. Regardless, the over-all amount of drug arrests deteriorated, implying that drug law enforcement was not being prioritized.

Reducing the criminal consequences for drug-related offenses can diminish racial disparities within the justice system. California’s new policy change was an elected initiative, and law enforcement is potentially responding to the public safety opinions from the public perspective. In the locations that had higher violent crime rates, the police agencies are welcoming the releasing of some of their drug related resources in order to focus on such violent offenses. Even though the racial disparities in dug felonies decreased, the relative disparities increased, since there are diverse already existing felony charges. African Americans had a larger portion because the new policy did not change the consequences of selling. The new policy targeted the possession of drugs, aiming to decriminalize substance use. However, the discrepancies between possession and sale continue to be foggy.

There are concerns with the generalizability since the data is only from within the state of California, but reliable from the California Department of justice’s registrar. It should also be noted that the data is based on all arrests, and not by person. Some individuals can count for more than one arrest that could skew the data. Also, it is noted that the racial classification is based on the officer’s eye, rather than the offender self-report. This could have led to misclassification in the arrest rated. Research addresses the weighing of both costs and the reimbursements of the United States drug law enforcement. The research highlights the racial discrepancies in the justice systems drug arrests, incarcerations, as well as convictions. Based on a recent study in Seattle, it is clarified that the whites who use drugs, use the drugs at the same level or even greater than those users that are non-white. Seattle has a general population of about seventy percent white. With the majority of those being involved with serious drugs being white, a little more than sixty-four percent of the drug-related arrests involved blacks. More than half of the drug arrests were related to crack, even though the crack was not even a third of the cities drug problems involved crack.

African American drug users are caught in every justice system at four times the rate that the white users are. When compared to the population of blacks, whites are essentially untouched by the drug law enforcement efforts. Race has been the lens through which the United States has viewed its drug problems. As the statistics in Seattle highlight, race continues to influence the perceptions of the dangers posed by those who are involved in illicit drugs. With both the media and the public eyed politicians focused on the impacts crack has on inner-city neighborhoods, regardless of if those effects manufactured or embellished, such neighborhoods remain the crucial front line of the drug wars. Crack became the light for a deeply grounded set of political, racial, moral, and social dynamics. With a comparison of the drug-related incarceration rates into state prisons, it is evident that black adults are incarcerated ten times the amount that white adults are within the United States. Federal and state governments have established policies that increase arrest rated of the low-level drug user, increased the chances of a prison sentence once convicted, and increased the duration of the prison sentence. The mandatory minimum drug policies require a universal sentence without the consideration of each individual offenders’ unique circumstances. By creating these minimums, the justice system has seen all drug offenders as criminals regardless of their individual circumstances, has thus created an unjust system. Additionally, these mandatory sentences have impacted the lives of minority groups and their families, especially those of African American ethnicities. Mandatory minimums have not only created an unjust criminal justice system but have also imposed disproportionate social as well as economic ramification among the communities. This research has very few concerns about the generalizability due to the collection of data from all state prisons within the United States. The data is reliable coming from the National Corrections Reporting Program. The validity of this research is based upon gathering the data from all state prisons. Research also contrasts the media coverage of white non-medical opioid users compared to non-white users in order to demonstrate how diverse depictions initiate dissimilar public as well as policy responses. The research is based on an analysis of one-hundred popular media articles between 2001 and ’11.

The media influences a form of a narcotic system of discrimination based on race that is marked by both human qualities, community, and family lives, as well as federal and state policies. There is a consistent contrast between the criminalized black and Hispanic urban users compared to the depictions of sympathy towards the white suburban users. The popular media in the United States connection with illicit drugs linked to non-white racial groups dates back to the “cocaine crazed Negros”, the Chinese immigrant opium burrows, and the Mexican reefer that all led to the beginnings of the efforts to regulate the narcotics. Media has portrayed the addicted drug users as racial minorities, and as more threatening and alarming than whites. Such representations support the policy responses that intensify the criminalization of the individual offender as well as the supplier. The distinction reinforces the racialized deployment of the war on drugs and continuous due to the lack of conversation on the influence of race. It is noted that it is rare to see drug users represented by white users with the exception of methamphetamine. This drug has been evolved into a white drug that is used in rural neighborhoods, and that denoted the declining of white status as well as social anxieties over white social ranking. The strongest finding in the research was that drug use in black and Hispanic communities was not classified as newsworthy. At most, the media lists what the charges were, and if there was a death. However, story after story in the predominately white suburban neighborhood is perceived as surprising and novel. The story contains details of everything that happened, and how unfortunate the situation was. Drug use is expected in the poor, predominately minority communities, but not in white rural America. Now that it is happening in such predominantly white communities, it is newsworthy. Not only are the white drug users’ stories portrayed with sympathy for why or how they began using, but they are portrayed especially tragic since they are perceived to have wasted all of their potential in life. The validity of this research is based on the top one hundred popular articles that concerned drug use and racial aspects. The reliability of the articles the research is based is dependent on the media source. However, even if the media source possibly fabricated the story, it was still released to the public. The new mandatory minimum sentencing laws stripped judges of their flexibility and discretion of tailoring individual offenders’ sentences according to the circumstances and the facts of their case.

Now bound by the new sentencing guidelines, universal minimum incarceration sentences are imposed. The penalties were directly linked to the quantity of drugs the offender was caught with having. A consequence for such guidelines, the punishment for crack-related offenses became harsher than for any other drug. Crack-related offenses had punishments up to one hundred times greater than its powder form, cocaine. The incarceration sentence was five years for every five hundred grams of powder cocaine, but the same sentence followed only 5 grams of crack. The reasoning at the time of the 100:1 ratio as it was believed that the crack form of the drug was more dangerous than the powder cocaine form. Crack was simply cheaper and easier to get than the powder form, making it more accessible to the poor minority communities. Thus, excessively incarcerating the low-level offending underprivileged African Americans and barely even touching the high and mid-level drug crime offenders. Even after the ratio decrease in sentencing, there will always be a very diverse negative effect on the African American communities. The mandatory minimums have emphasized racial injustices that are characteristics of the federal justice system by engaging in prejudiced sentencing regulations and practices. The judges of the courts’ hands were tied. The underprivileged minority groups are being imprisoned for drug offenses at a significantly higher rate than their percentage of drug use within the population. The ultimate reason for the excessively high level of minority and African Americans being incarcerated and convicted by harsh and aggressive drug offender sentences, the war against drugs. The research is reliably from several respected sources. The research is validated through originated from legal and government documents.

The underlying instigators to fuel the motivation for the war on drugs were societal concerns regarding racial views on drug problems. The war on drugs has destroyed communities based upon the color of skin. The modern-day Jim Crow regulations have legalized discrimination against minorities again. They have made unstable black communities as well as disadvantaged them. More specifically, the black American male. Decreasing the punishment for drug related offenses could play a significant factor in decreasing the significantly disproportionate African American drug related felonies and incarceration rates. Mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws were created with the intentions of disrupting drug related crimes. However, the laws had very different consequences. Contrary to the goal of decreasing drug related crimes, the minimum regulations on drug sentencing merely spiked the likelihood of families being broken by the system. The poor minorities are being processed through the system because of the mandatory minimums, leaving their children to be fed through the same machine. Leaving vulnerable children without their parents or guardianship feeds them through foster care and increases their chances of following the same path to incarceration. These negative consequences significantly outweigh the small chances of disturbing the drug trade.

If the media did not instigate all of modern societies perspectives, maybe the laws would be looked at differently. The public should be educated about the facts, and not persuaded to empathize with the drug problems in the wrong way. Instead of throwing these low-level drug offenders in prison for several years, offer them treatment plans. Let’s guide them down a different path and change the way the continuous cycle is working. Offenders have individual circumstances that should be taken into consideration. Punishing all drug related crimes the same, as if all were under the exact same circumstances and at the same level, is not fair for any offender. One size will never fit everyone.

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