Current Issue

June6, 2012

Vol. 112, No. 14

Drug laws an injustice

In response to: Perspective

The April 25 issue had stories about a number of remarkable alumni, but I was particularly impressed by Benjamin West ’01, whose work as a public defender in New York City is truly “in the nation’s service” (Perspective). He highlighted the gross racial disparities in how our laws are enforced, which result in people of color being arrested and imprisoned at rates that far exceed the proportion of crimes that they commit. He could have added that much of this is due to our irrational drug laws — particularly evident in New York City, which for two decades has been the marijuana-arrest capital of the world, with about 50,000 arrests annually for simple possession.

More generally, as a retired CIA European analyst, I am struck by the fact that the United States has more people in jail for drug crimes (about 500,000) than all of Western Europe, with its much larger population, has in jail for any reason (about 440,000).

Lorton, Va.

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