FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Elizabeth Méndez
Berry (646) 335-2242
Proposed San Antonio Bill Would Prohibit People Arrested,
as Well as Those Convicted, For Drug Offenses from Entering Certain
Thousands Would be Impacted by Law: 6,902 San Antonians Arrested
For Drug Offenses in 2003, Majority for Marijuana Possession
Critics: Law is Ineffective and Racist, Would Punish Innocent
A measure just introduced in the Texas Legislature would allow
the City of San Antonio to exclude people arrested for drug offenses
from entering certain parts of the city except to go directly
to their homes and places of employment. The law would ban people
who had been arrested for a drug offense-even if they were not
convicted- for 90 days. People who had actually been convicted
would be excluded from the community for one year. "What
we're trying to do is put these drug dealers out of the city
of San Antonio," said the author of the bill, State Representative
Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio) in an interview.
"The vast majority of people arrested for drug offenses
in San Antonio are arrested for marijuana possession," said
Michael Blain, director of public policy for the Drug Policy
Alliance. "They're not dealers or addicts. And for the minority
who are, this bill will do more harm than good. Someone who has
a substance abuse problem needs treatment and reintegration into
the community-both of which are proven to reduce recidivism.
They don't need isolation."
McClendon's bill is designed to focus on areas that have a
significantly higher number of arrests for drug offenses than
other areas of similar population. Critics say that this strategy
will impact communities of color excessively due to law enforcement's
disproportionate focus on those communities. Despite nearly equal
drug use rates across racial lines, according to Human Rights
Watch, African Americans in Texas go to jail at twelve times
the rate that whites do.
Texas has also made national news for cases in which innocent
Latinos and African Americans have been convicted and incarcerated
and later exonerated. In the Dallas "Sheetrock Scandal"
dozens of Latinos were incarcerated for dealing cocaine, and
were later found innocent. In Tulia, 40 African Americans were
arrested and incarcerated on the word of a single corrupt police
officer, only to be officially pardoned later.
"This law is discriminatory," added Blain. "While
drug use is widespread throughout society, law enforcement focuses
on African American and Latino communities. The bill also flies
in the face of our most democratic principle of being innocent
until proven guilty by condemning people solely on the basis
of arrest. And in Texas, even conviction doesn't always mean