SENTINEL 5-31-2012
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Picking a Prosecutor

Impact on Blacks

The Firpo Files

(Sentinel, May 24, 2012)

The Sentinel's editorial board recently spoke with four candidates running for the office of district attorney for the county of Los Angeles. Jackie Lacey, Bobby Grace, Danette Meyers, and Carmen Trutanich all said why they're the best candidate for the job.

Lacey said: "I think my entire life has prepared me for this position." Grace noted: "I'm a twenty-three year veteran of the DA's office where I prosecuted over 40 homicide cases."

Meyers revealed: "Here you have a lifelong resident of Los Angeles County who has always been interested in the county."

Trutanich chimed: "My experience in this race brings me right to this spot." (Read the interviews in their entirety in last week's Sentinel, May 17-23, 2012, under the article, "The Next DA?")

But, what power does the DA really wield? What is the potential impact on Blacks, for example, when it comes to imprisonment and illegal drug use?

After all, the DA will ultimately answer to God for injustices. "To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, to deny a man his rights before the Most High, to deprive a man of justice--would not the Lord see such things?"--Lamentations 3:34-36, New International Version.

The Power of the Prosecutor: According to Michelle Alexander in her book, The New Jim Crow (2010), "Though it is not wildly known, the prosecutor is the most powerful law enforcement official in the criminal justice system."

"It is the prosecutor, far more than any other criminal justice official, who holds the keys to the jailhouse door."

Dealing Drugs in Black & White: Surprisingly, studies show that Blacks and Whites sell illegal drugs at about the same rate. What studies? I'm glad you asked.

According to the Summary of Findings from the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), 6.4 percent of both Blacks and Whites sell illegal drugs. The same study showed that 5.3 percent of Hispanics illegally dealt drugs.

Another study, Results from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, similarly reveal that illegal drug sells among Blacks and Whites are virtually identical.

And the more recent version of the study, Results from the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, essentially show the same findings.

And the publication, A 25-Year Quagmire: The War on Drugs and Its Impact on American Society (2007), shows that Blacks sell drugs at marginally higher rates than do Whites. Bottom line, Blacks and Whites deal drugs at about the same rate. But, this isn't the complete picture.

Crack Not Black!: According to Alexander a 2000 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Secondary School Students Monitoring the Future, see also National Survey Results on Drug Use) "reported that white students use cocaine at seven times the rate of black students, use crack cocaine at eight times the rate of black students, and use heroin at sevens time the rate of black students."

So, crack cocaine--among American youth for instance--is really not a Black "disease," but rather a White one.

What About MJ?: "That same survey," continues Alexander, "revealed that nearly identical percentages of white and black high school seniors use marijuana [or MJ as one slang for it; or, as Rick James sang, Mary Jane].

However, the U.S. Department of Health's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse "reported in 2000 that white youth aged 12-17 are more than a third more likely to have sold illegal drugs than African American youth."

Whites Use, Blacks Jailed: "The very same year Human Rights Watch was reporting that African Americans were being arrested and imprisoned at unprecedented rates, government data revealed that blacks were no more likely to be guilty of drug crimes than whites and that white youth were actually the most likely [italics in the original] of any racial or ethnic group to be guilty of illegal drug possession and sales.

Any notion that drug use among blacks is more severe or dangerous is belied by the data," writes Alexander.

Further proving the point, she references the book Punishment and Inequality (2006) by Bruce Western, and then goes on to say: "White youth have about three times the number of drug-related emergency room visits as their African American counterparts."

In summary, if the DA were to frame an innocent Black man, making him look "crooked in his legal case," rest assured, "Jehovah himself has had no countenance" for it. (Lamentations 3:36, New World Translation) Peace and blessings to all. Amen.