Newsbrief: Stop the Presses! Poor, Blacks Face Brunt of Houston Drug War 12/20/02

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A report in Sunday's Houston Chronicle fleshed out with hard numbers the widely held view that drug law enforcement in Texas' largest city is uneven and unequal. In analyzing drug convictions in Harris County (Houston) since 1997, the Chronicle found that Jim Crow lives -- and he is wearing a narc's badge.

The newspaper analyzed some 58,000 drug convictions in Harris County courts and found that the vast majority -- 77% -- involved less than a gram of drugs. Harris County judges sent more than 35,000 of these small-time offenders to jail or prison. And although the county is only 14% black, African-Americans made up 62% of those convicted on drug charges involving a gram or less.

Some observers of the racially skewed enforcement called the results "arrests of opportunity" rather than a policy directed at repressing minorities. Police arrested more inner city black drug users because it was easier, they said. People in wealthy neighborhoods use drugs behind closed doors, they said.

But black religious leaders have had enough. They have formed Houston Ministers Against Crime to monitor court hearings and lobby state and local officials for changes in the drugs laws and local practices. "Drugs cross racial barriers from Acre Homes [black inner-city neighborhood] to Kingswood [swanky white suburban neighborhood], the Rev. Carl Davis told the Chronicle. "Why is it that only your ethnic minorities end up incarcerated?"

Texas has nearly 15,000 people in low-security state jails doing time for less than a gram, and half of those were sent by Harris County, the Chronicle found. In fact, more state jail prisoners -- 37% -- come from Harris County than from the state's next three most populous counties -- Dallas, Bexar (San Antonio), and Tarrant (Ft. Worth) -- combined.

Houston, we've got a problem.

-- END --
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Issue #268, 12/20/02 Special Offer Continues -- DRCNet Needs Your Help! | Editorial: Expanding the Chorus | 108 Euro-Parliamentarians Call for Legal, Regulated Drug Trade, Reform of UN Conventions | Congressional Drug Warrior Having Doubts: Dan Burton's Near Epiphany | Michigan Legislature Repeals Mandatory Minimum Drug Laws | Canadian Marijuana Activists Skeptical on Decrim | Canadian Supreme Court Postpones Marijuana Cases, Cites Parliament Report, Justice Minister Statement on Decrim | DRCNet Book Review: "Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords, and Washington's War on Drugs" | And the Winners Are | Federal Judge Shows Keen Interest in Raich/Monson Medical Marijuana Case | Bolivia Coca Growers Announce Blockades for January 6 -- Will Continue Dialogue | DC Measure 62 Clears Hurdle, Goes to Congress 268/jeffjones Newsbrief: Oakland Cannabis Co-op Director Founded Guilty on Federal Jury Tampering Charges, Handed Out Flyer at Epis Trial | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Stop the Presses! Poor, Blacks Face Brunt of Houston Drug War | Newsbrief: Texas ACLU Report Slams Task Forces, Calls for End to $200 Million Annual Boondoogle | Newsbrief: MPP Continues "War on Drug Czar" -- More Complaints to be Filed, O'Reilly Appearance Tonight | Newsbrief: Budget Cuts Free Kentucky Drug Prisoners -- Oklahoma Next? | Newsbrief: Nickelodeon Censors Beverly Hillbillies Marijuana References | Newsbrief: Asset Forfeiture Unconstitutional in New Jersey | Media Scan: Joycelyn Elders in Globe and Mail, George McMahon in Fort Worth Weekly, Jeff and Tracy, Santa Fe New Mexican, Medscape | DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar
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