Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

1 in 3 Young Black Men Serving Terms, Group Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

1 in 3 Young Black Men Serving Terms, Group Says

Article excerpt

Almost one in every three young black men is serving a criminal sentence - either prison, probation or parole, according to a study by an advocacy group. That's a dramatic increase from five years earlier, when the proportion was one in four.

The statistics released Wednesday are sure to fuel arguments about whether blacks are treated fairly by the criminal justice system - a theme that permeated the O.J. Simpson trial.

"If one in three young white men were under criminal justice supervision, the nation would declare a national emergency," said Marc Mauer, co-author of the study by The Sentencing Project, a research group that supports alternatives to prison.

The report argues that the mandatory minimum sentences and stepped-up enforcement that began with the 1980s war on drugs have fallen disproportionately on blacks and women.

The report says that explains why blacks accounted for 24 percent of all drug arrests in 1980, but the figure climbed to 39 percent in 1993.

Blacks make up 12 percent of the U.S. population.

A Justice Department spokesman, John Russell, said the department "has no quarrel" with the report's numbers.

But he disputed the suggestion that blacks are more likely to be prosecuted under federal drug laws than whites accused of the same offense.

The numbers, Russell said, probably "reflect the social and economic factors that have a disproportionate effect on the African-American community."

The issue is cited by organizers of a national black men's march for unity and atonement. Black leaders supporting the march Oct. 16 planned by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and those who oppose it, have been united in declaring a crisis of black men.

"The figures in our report are evidence of that crisis," Mauer said.

Using Justice Department statistics, the report estimates that on any given day this year, 32 percent of black men ages 20 to 29 are serving a criminal sentence.

That's 827,400 young black men in jail or prison, or on probation or parole. …

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