Our Compassion for Drug Users Should Not be Determined by Race

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Letters to Editors


From: Marc Mauer

The Sentencing Project


In the new year, The Sentencing Project’s research and policy advocacy continues to help inform the momentum for reform that is growing across the country. I’m pleased to share with you a few recent contributions to the national conversation about criminal justice reform:

Our compassion for drug users should not be determined by race. This election season, several Republican presidential candidates have expressed support for individuals struggling with heroin addiction, widely perceived to be a problem in white communities. But for drug problems more closely associated with low-income communities of color, U.S. drug policy has been more often informed by punitive “lock ’em up” rhetoric rather than compassion or a public health approach. In this Guardian op-ed, I discuss how racial perceptions of drug use have informed policy and argue that all people struggling with addiction deserve compassion, regardless of race.

Corrections reform isn’t just about cutting prison populations. While in recent years there has been an increasing focus on challenging mass incarceration, less attention has been devoted to examining corrections populations overall. My commentary in The Crime Report makes the case for including reducing high rates of community supervision as a key priority for criminal justice reform.

Dealing with “other people’s children.” Ashley Nellis, our Senior Research Analyst, has just published a book, A Return to Justice: Rethinking Our Approach to Juveniles in the System, that traces the evolution of the juvenile justice system over many decades. In her interview with The Crime Report, she discusses how the original aim of the juvenile justice system — to consider children’s unique status and amenability for reform — has eroded, with increasing reliance on court systems that do not account for their young age.

I hope these resources will be useful to you in your work.


Marc Mauer

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