The social mobility of black Americans has suffered collateral damage from the “War on Drugs.” Being convicted of a crime has devastating effects on the employment prospects and incomes of ex-felons and their children... These findings are often used to motivate efforts to reduce criminal behavior. They should also motivate changes in our criminal justice system, which unfairly punishes black Americans—often for victimless crimes that whites are at least as likely to commit.
An estimated one-third of black male Americans will spend time in state or federal prison at some point in their lifetime – more than double the rate from the 1970s and over five times higher than the rate for white males.
What’s driving the imprisonment of black men? Arrest data show a striking trend: arrests of blacks have fallen for violent and property crimes, but soared for drug related crimes. As of 2011, drug crimes comprised 14 percent of all arrests and a miscellaneous category that includes “drug paraphernalia” possession comprised an additional 31 percent of all arrests. Just 6 percent and 14 percent of arrests were for violent and property crimes, respectively.
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