Federal data uncovers inherent injustices in criminal enforcement

Our criminal system is intended to be based on the principles of justice and equality. As residents of the United States, we want to believe that everything is fair and reliable. However, new research suggests that there are serious flaws in the administration of justice.

According to recent federal data, African-Americans are nearly four times more likely than whites to be detained for marijuana charges. Research shows that this is true even when the two groups use the drug the same amounts. While this is the national average, the situation is worse in Illinois, where blacks are around eight times more likely to be detained for such crimes.

The research, which comes from the American Civil Liberties Union, reflects information collected in 2010. Data was collected from police records across the country. It reviews marijuana-related detentions by race and county.

Sources note that the report is one of the most detailed of its type. Ironically, it comes at a time when public sentiments toward marijuana have started to ease, and several states permit marijuana use in some capacity. Specifically, the New York Times reports that 13 states have added laws decriminalizing the use of marijuana in recent years, and 18 states now permit the drug for medicinal use. Nevertheless, approximately 50 percent of drug arrests in 2010 and 2011 were for marijuana-related crimes, according to the New York Times.

Even though the country is developing a more relaxed attitude about marijuana, blacks and whites have experienced the evolution of sentiments differently. According to a scholar of criminology, law and society at the University of California, Santa Cruz, "It's pretty clear that law enforcement practices are not keeping pace with public opinion and state policies." Scholars are especially alarmed about the racial disparities among marijuana arrests because they are apparent across several counties with varied minority populations.

It does not help that the cost of law enforcement for drug-related crimes has grown over the past 10 years. In 2010, for example, the New York Times indicates that the United States spent approximately $3.6 billion in enforcement for marijuana possession laws. This was a 30 percent jump from the decade before. Conversely, during this same time, arrests for many other types of crimes dropped.

While there is no specific explanation for the differences in marijuana arrests among blacks and whites, scholars are examining the recent statistics. At the least, the research challenges the reliability of our criminal justice system, which is supposed to be based on tenants of justice. For this reason, those facing serious criminal charges could potentially confront an uphill battle.

If you have been accused of a serious crime, you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney in your area. Do not leave your case up to fate. This is risky with the existing injustices that are apparent in the system. A lawyer can honor and protect your rights.