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Louisiana's drug arrest rates suggest presence of racial bias

We are at a moment in time where the American criminal justice system is under the microscope. In recent years, advocates have been pushing for reforms to state and federal drug laws and prison sentencing guidelines. In recent months, the issue of racism in criminal justice has also taken center stage. Such issues have been raised in the past, but Americans now seem particularly receptive and attentive.

In today’s post we’ll examine some statistics about America’s (and Louisiana’s) war on drugs, as this issue also encompasses sentencing guidelines and race. While some states are passing much-need reforms to drug laws, Louisiana remains stubbornly dedicated to its “tough on crime” approach.

According to a group called the Drug Policy Alliance, The United States spends more than $51 billion annually fighting the war on drugs. What does that money buy us? Well, in 2012, approximately 1.55 million people in the U.S. were arrested for non-violent drug offenses.

Both at the national level and here in Louisiana, minority populations are more likely than whites to be arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses. Of the nearly 19,000 drug offenders arrested in Louisiana each year, white offenders account for just 46 percent of arrests. This is in spite of the fact that the state’s 2010 population data shows Louisiana to be 62.6 percent white.

By contrast, African Americans make up just 32 percent of the state’s population but account for 54 percent of those arrested for drug crimes. Other statistics have shown that whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate. In light of this, the racial disparities in drug arrest rates seem particularly troubling.

Hopefully, the important public conversations about race and criminal justice reform will continue. Louisiana and many other states have a lot of work to do, and a hard look at facts and statistics is an important first step toward change.

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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