A groundbreaking coalition of black professional organizations have come together to form the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC) to urgently seek "alternatives to misguided drug policies" that have led to the mass incarceration of black men in the US. Founded by Clyde Bailey, the past president of the National Bar Association, the nation's leading African-American attorneys' organization, the umbrella group will be led by Bailey, retired District of Columbia Senior Judge Arthur L. Burnett, and former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke, currently dean of the Howard University Law School in Washington, DC.
Making its public debut with a Wednesday Capitol Hill press conference, NAADPC announced a five-year program to address drug policy issues affecting African-Americans. The group will target appropriate treatment for drug addictions, increased use of pretrial diversion, and "therapeutic sentencing," or drug court-style coerced treatment. According to NAADPC, the group is planning pilot programs in seven US cities and will host an international summit on drug policy and African-Americans in February.
NAADPC membership spans black professional organizations, including the National Bar Association; Howard University School of Law; the National Association of Black Sociologists; the National Association of Black Psychologists; the National Association of Black Social Workers; the National Black Nurses Association; the National Dental Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. Support in creating NAADPC came from the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers.
"This coalition is the most broad-based group I have ever seen," said Schmoke. "I hope that it will move drug control policy in a more constructive direction, especially as it relates to people of color. A major effort will focus on therapeutic sentencing, where we will educate and train judges to provide sentences to drug offenders that will make them better people coming out of prison than they were going in."
The nation must move away from punitive drug policies, said Burnett. "Not only have they failed to reduce drug use, these policies are doing irreparable harm to the African American community and do not advance public safety," he said. "Who would have thought 20 years ago that today there would be more African American men serving time than there are pursuing college degrees? We need to confront the futility of fighting a public health problem solely with prison."
"What we hope to do is to shift public resources into education, prevention, treatment and research programs that have proven more effective in reducing drug abuse rather than through the use of expensive criminal sanctions. We are trying to focus on the health issue of these people rather than criminalizing that behavior," said Bailey.
Look for a longer article about NAADPC next issue.