Race and Criminal Justice

Race and Criminal Justice

Racial bias in our criminal justice system keeps more African-Americans on probation and in prison than ever before. In fact, one in three Black men can expect to spend time in jail in his lifetime. The ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project works to reform policies that unfairly target people of color.

TheUncovery.org -- Uncover the Facts

The effect of the "War on Drugs" on communities of color has been tragic: Sentencing disparities and selective enforcement of drug laws mean that there are more African-Americans under the control of prison and corrections departments today than were ever enslaved by this country. Despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites.

Some progress has been made: in 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), which represents a decade-long, bipartisan effort to reduce the racial disparities caused by draconian crack cocaine sentencing laws and to restore confidence in the criminal justice system — particularly in communities of color. And in 2011, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to retroactively apply the new FSA guidelines to individuals sentenced before the law was enacted. This decision will help ensure that over 12,000 people — 85 percent of whom are African-Americans — will have the opportunity to have their sentences for crack cocaine offenses reviewed by a federal judge and possibly reduced.

But there is still much to be done. It's time to end the unjust, un-American and unsuccessful war on drugs.

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Police Practices

The ACLU works to promote good police practices, which ensure public safety and prevent abuses in encounters between police officers and citizens. Unfortunately, across the nation patterns of racial profiling, the selective enforcement of laws against people of color and disturbing stop-and-frisk policies have resulted in a disproportionate effect on certain communities, with people of color coming in contact with law enforcement and the criminal justice system at far greater rates that white people.

Fair Sentencing Act

In June 2011, the United States Sentencing Commission took a step toward creating fairness in federal sentencing by retroactively applying the new Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) guidelines, which address unfair sentencing disparities for certain offenses, to individuals sentenced before the law was enacted. This decision will help ensure that over 12,000 people — 85 percent of whom are African-Americans — will have the opportunity to have their sentences for crack cocaine offenses reviewed by a federal judge and possibly reduced.

Overincarceration

America's criminal justice system should keep communities safe, treat people fairly, and use fiscal resources wisely. But more Americans are deprived of their liberty than ever before - unfairly and unnecessarily, with no benefit to public safety.

War on Drugs

The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color. The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated on drug charges at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites.

War on Drugs Blog Series

June 2011 marked the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs" — a war which has cost $1 trillion but produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs. The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color. The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites. The ACLU is advocating for a more responsible drug policy in America. It's time to end the unjust and unsuccessful war on drugs.

School-to-Prison Pipeline

The ACLU believes that children should be educated, not incarcerated. We are working to challenge numerous policies and practices within public school systems and the juvenile justice system that contribute to the school to prison pipeline, a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

MULTIMEDIA

Just Say No to the War on Drugs

Comedian Elon James White takes on America's failed 40-year war on drugs.

CASES

Morrow v. Tenaha

Beginning in 2006, under the guise of looking for criminal activity, the police in Tenaha, Texas stopped, searched, and often seized property from Blacks and Latinos traveling through town with no suspicion of criminal activity.

 

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