Monday, December 29, 2008

The Criminal Justice System and Mandated Sentences Part 3

This is part 3 of an interview series about injustices in the US criminal justice system. You should first see part 1, then part 2 and after viewing part 3 finally see part 4.

Important Notes from part 3 of the Interview of Dr. Deborah Burris-Kitchen by Dr. James Haney

Dr. Deborah Burris-Kitchen is talking about the Criminal Justice System in the United States.

JH: ...We continue talking about the institutionalization of racism. ...the whole issue is a part of the real sense of our society...

DBK: Where I kind of left of was the fact that, all of a sudden the civil rights legislation was passed. There are new freedoms for African Americans and other oppressed members of our society. But it was 1970. I mean, it wasn't even 5, maybe 6 years after this that the Nixon administration put an all out front on the war on drugs.

The war on drugs became a criminalization of black people. Drugs meant blacks, black meant crime. Drugs and crime meant let's lock up black people. It was never this intent until the 70s.

What concerns me about that is once the juror segregation and discrimination is gone, now all of a sudden you've got institutionalized racism.

You've got the menial portrayal that people who do drugs are African American. They're the people to fear as a group! Not just, we've got to fear a person who does drugs but we've got to fear the black male. Because the black male is the drug dealer, who's out killing people for drugs or killing people to sell drugs. And that's what we've got to be careful about.

So all of a sudden we've got a bunch more police officers on the street looking for the drug dealer who is African American male. Supposedly, but that's not reality. Reality is not that that's who was selling drugs.

Self report studies on drugs sales and drug use from 1970s on, which was data collected by the Michigan Alcohol and Drug Survey said that -- self report studies say that white European American males are the ones who are the drug dealers and the drug users at a much higher rate than African American males.

But the images of the media and the image of the political arena was that it was African American males. The African American males became a threat to the white population and the white politician and the white criminal justice system.

So once that happened, more legislation continued to be passed that was about the war on drugs. Every President, from Nixon on, that's what they fought for up until Barack Obama's administration.

The war on drugs wasn't really mentioned much at all in this because the economy was so bad. I think that people wanted to hear other things beside the war on drugs. But any politician who ran for office from the seventies on could not "not talk about" the war on drugs and not talk about crime and.

JH: Troubled cities

DBK: Right, or troubled cities. Or they would not had gotten elected. You had to say: what am I doing about crime. And you had to say, what am I doing specifically about the drug dealers on the street that are shooting each other.

That image of the drug dealer was a Black African American Male. So what are you doing about the inner city streets of America? What are you doing about the Detroits? What are you doing about the Chicagos? What are you doing about the L.A.s?

Ever since then, we've had legislation that's been passed, that's been revolving around this particular interest. I think the most damaging was the "Crime Control Bill" which said, If you've got just 5 grams of crack cocaine, you've got a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison vs. 500 grams of heroin, vs. 100 grams of regular cocaine.

We all know that cocaine is cocaine, whether it comes in the form of powder cocaine or rock. But we focused on, OK, we've got to get the people who've got crack -- and they're going to get for 5 grams of crack, -- they're going to get the same time as someone who has 100 grams or 500 grams of heroin.

The person who we saw as the crack dealer, specifically in the 80s, was the black African American male. So all of a sudden we've got all these people out on the streets -- looking for the crack dealer -- who was ONLY looking in African American communities. That's were the law enforcement officers were put.

Clinton's administration in the 90s also passed crime control legislation, put 100,000 more police officers on the street. Of course that crime control legislation: 100,000 more police officers went where?

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