Driving While Black: Legislative Alert from the American Civil Liberties Union 8/21/98

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(The alert is reprinted from the ACLU's cyber network. Though it doesn't specifically bring up the drug issue, the "Driving While Black" problem is driven in substantial part by the police mandate to find illegal drugs, that are naturally hidden from view and can only be found through intrusive searches. Feeding into this is the mistaken belief that African Americans use or traffic in drugs at higher rates than other Americans. You can subscribe to the ACLU's alert list through their web site at <http://www.aclu.org>.)

Among far too many measures aimed at curtailing civil liberties that await consideration when the Senate returns to Washington at the end of the month is HR 118, a positive first step toward eliminating traffic stops based only on the race and ethnicity of the driver.

Scores of African-American males - including prominent athletes, Members of Congress, actors and business leaders - have experienced the humiliation of being stopped on the nation's roads for no other reason than the alleged traffic offense derisively referred to as "Driving While Black." Yet no agency has ever attempted to document how widespread the problem is, even though 1995 Maryland survey found that 73 percent of the cars stopped and searched were driven by African-Americans, although they make up only 14 percent of the people driving along the interstate.

The "Traffic Stops Statistics Act of 1997" (HR 118), sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), would encourage police departments to keep detailed records of traffic stops, including the race and ethnicity of the person stopped. The Justice Department would be charged with collecting the data and making a determination on the scope of this problem nationwide.

While the House passed HR 118 last March, the Senate has yet to take action on the bill. Urge your Senators to encourage passage of this important legislation by sending a FREE FAX from the ACLU website at http://www.aclu.org/action/drivingblack.html.

(As always, please remember to let DRCNet know about what actions you've taken in response to our bulletins. Please send copies of your letters, or just a note letting us know what actions you've taken, to [email protected].

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Issue #55, 8/21/98 Prison, Probation and Parole Populations Growing Rapidly | American Psychological Association Calls for Repeal of Mandatory Minimums | Conference: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex, Berkeley, CA 25-Sep - 27-Sep | Giuliani Carries out Methadone Threat | Methadone Conferences Coming Up -- In New York! | Report: Marijuana Prohibition Has Not Curtailed Marijuana Use by Adolescents | West Australia Decriminalizes Marijuana On Trial Basis | Peter McWilliams Released on Bond | War on Drugs Blamed for Lapse in Ethical Standards of Federal Prosecutors | Driving While Black: Legislative Alert from the American Civil Liberties Union | Editorial: One in Thirty-Five
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