11234 & 11236
No policy has contributed more to the criminalization of segregated communities of color in the United States than the war on drugs.
Though it failed to achieve its stated goal of reducing drug use, the war on drugs has disproportionately targeted poor people of color, who are incarcerated primarily for nonviolent and drug-related crimes that occur at almost identical rates in middle-class white neighborhoods and on college campuses. Despite several government surveys showing that blacks and whites use drugs at roughly the same rates, Blacks, who make up 13% of the US population, account for 31% of those arrested for drug law violations and nearly 40% of those in prison for them.
Policing disparities for drug offenses are striking in NYC. Between 2015 and 2018, black people across the city were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of White people and Latinos were arrested at five times the rate of whites, according to a 2018 New York Times investigation. The gap was even starker in Manhattan where Black people were arrested at fifteen times the rate of Whites. Even in neighborhoods where people called the police to complain about marijuana at the same rate, arrests were higher in Black neighborhoods. For example, rates of calls of complaints about marijuana use were similar in Greenpoint and Canarsie. But in Canarsie, where 85% of residents are Black, the rate of arrests was four times higher than Greenpoint, where only 4% of its residents are Black.