Newsbrief: What Racist Drug War? Ask Maryland 10/24/03

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A study commissioned by Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus and reported Thursday in the Baltimore Sun offers a stunning picture of racially disparate justice in the state. While blacks constitute 28% of the state's population, they make up 76% of all Maryland prisoners, the study found. Worse yet, 90% of people in prison for drug offenses in the state are African-Americans.

Maryland prison growth since 1970 has come largely on the back of the black population, according to the study conducted by the Justice Policy Institute. Blacks accounted for more than 75% of the total increase in prison population and an astounding 94% of the increase in drug prisoners, a figure that has jumped from 5% of the prison population in the 1980s to 24% now.

Maryland now trails only New York and New Jersey in the percentage of prisoners doing time for drug crimes, the study found. "The reason Maryland has the third highest proportion of drug prison admissions in the country is because too many African Americans and Latinos are incarcerated for drug and other nonviolent offenses," explained Vincent Schiraldi, report coauthor and Justice Policy Institute Executive Director. "If Maryland diverts drug and other nonviolent offenders from prison into rigorous community treatment, it will reduce unwarranted disparities, improve outcomes and save taxpayer dollars. Reducing racial disparity is key to building a more balanced and effective justice system in the state of Maryland."

Read the study and associated materials by going to http://www.justicepolicy.org and clicking on "New Report -- Race and Incarceration in Maryland."

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