Ariana Huffington challenges the presidential candidates to address the issue of racial disparities in drug arrests, convictions and incarceration:
…African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino.
Maybe the president will suddenly wake up and decide to take on the issue five days before he leaves office. That’s what Bill Clinton did, writing a 2001 New York Times Op-Ed article in which he trumpeted the need to “immediately reduce the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences” — conveniently ignoring the fact that he had the power to solve it for eight years and did nothing.
When it mattered, he maintained an imperial silence. Then, when it didn’t, he became Captain Courageous. And he lamented the failures of our drug policy as though he had been an innocent bystander rather than the chief executive (indeed, the prison population doubled on his watch).
The injustice is so egregious that a conservative senator, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), is now leading the charge in Congress to ease crack sentences. “I believe that as a matter of law enforcement and good public policy, crack cocaine sentences are too heavy and can’t be justified,” he said. “People don’t want us to be soft on crime, but I think we ought to make the law more rational.”