There are long-standing racial disparities in the sanctions imposed on drug offenders in the United States. However, the policies and practices pursued under the war on drugs of the 1980s greatly exacerbated these disparities and the punitiveness of drug sanctions generally. These racial disparities do not appear to be attributable to racial differences in the prevalence or frequency of drug use or involvement in drug distribution. Instead, racial disparities appear to be best explained by racial differences in the nature of drug use and drug distribution, place-based differences in drug enforcement that are correlated with race, and racial bias in the administration of drug sanctioning. There is a growing movement to change drug sentencing, and drug enforcement more generally, to reduce their punitiveness and ...

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