Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

April 9, 2007 - Palo Alto Daily News (CA)

Stanford Conference To Explore Prisons, Race

Watchdog Group Claims Nearly Half of Nation's Inmates Are Black

By: Banks Albach, Daily News Staff Writer

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

American prisons hold roughly 2.1 million people today, two-thirds of whom are racial and ethnic minorities, according to the Sentencing Project, a prison reform group that will take part in a Stanford University conference this week on race, inequality and incarceration.

The Washington, D.C.-based project claims that almost half are African American and 17 percent are Hispanic. African Americans and Hispanics make up 13 and 10 percent of the U.S. population, respectively.

Organized by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, Wednesday's event will explore the factors causing these skewed incarceration numbers - -- factors that impact many young minorities starting at birth, the center's director Kara Dansky said.

The majority of the 13 professors slated to speak work in the field of sociology, meaning panels will focus mostly on issues like drug addiction, crime and policing patterns, and education, rather than the legal process, Dansky said.

"It's very easy to say that this is a natural consequence of racism in American history," Dansky said. "But that doesn't answer all the questions. It's not as simple as a sentencing system."

African American males in their 20s are hardest hit, according to an article by Marc Mauer, assistant director to the Sentencing Project and a speaker Wednesday. Nearly one in three are under "some form of criminal justice supervision on any given day," Mauer claims.

He noted that violent crime among African Americans -- roughly the same since 1976, according to the Sentencing Project -- is high compared to other groups, but that it does not correlate to their rate of incarceration, which has been rising since that same year.

The numbers are indisputable, said San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. He said his office ignores racial categories by not including them in case files and asking police to leave them out of case reports.

"We worry about it," Wagstaffe said. "We want to make all our decisions colorblind."

But his office has little control over how judges might set bail or how a jury perceives a person's race, Wagstaffe said.

"People have stereotypes," he said. "It's the biggest thing in selection of a jury and arguing to a jury."

Conference speakers will also discuss the disparities between sentencing for whites and African Americans who commit the same crime and why minorities face stiffer sentences for low-level property and drug offenses, both of which are analyzed in another Sentencing Project study titled "Racial Disparity in Sentencing: A Review of the Literature."

For more on the conference, which ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday (April 11) in the Bechtel Conference Center at 616 Serra St., visit

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact