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Michael Tonry, Malign Neglect (Oxford University Press, 1995)

From Subject
Edmund Stuhr <epstuhr@YAHOO.COM> REV:Malign Neglect(STUHR)
"Alison M. Navarrete" <amnavar@ILSTU.EDU> Review: Tonry (Navarrete)
robert joseph nuckolls <bjnuckol@ILSTU.EDU> Malign Neglect Review
Clayton cobb <clcobb@ilstu.edu> Review: Malign Neglect (Clayton Cobb)
Adam E Sebastian <aeseba0@ilstu.edu> Re: Review: Malign Neglect (Clayton Cobb)
"Ureatha Watkins," <uawatki@ilstu.edu> Malign Neglect (Ureatha Watkins)

Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998 21:15:21 -0800
From: Edmund Stuhr <epstuhr@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: REV:Malign Neglect(STUHR)

Edmund P. Stuhr Review of Malign Neglect (Tonry) March 24, 1998

Crime and punishment seem that they are two words that are synonymous with each other. When there is a crime there should be punishment. It is something that is seen in our country more than in any other country in the world. As an American it is scary to think that we have more criminals in this country than any other. This is a fact that every American citizen should be alarmed of. The reason that other countries have a lower crime rate is that many of the other governments have a preventive criminal justice system, we on the other hand have a reactive criminal justice system. It has been natural since the beginning of our country to commit crime. These all are quite apparent to much of society, but if you add race in the equation of crime and punishment, the issues at hand are much more astounding. This is what Tonry addresses in Malign Neglect, that there is a correlation between the amount of crime and someone’s race. The relation of drug use, race, and crime is apparent and that there is a social adversary against our society as a whole. These are all issues that affect our country and that have to be dealt with or we will have a prison for a country.

When Governor Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980 one of his big boosters was that he thought that longer sentences for more serious crimes would reduce crime. What he thought would happen is that if sentences for crimes like burglary, murder, rape, and drug trafficking were increased, people would actually be afraid to commit these crimes. When Reagan left office in 1988, George Bush felt that Reagan had the right idea for a good crime stopper. Bush continued to support the longer sentences. In actuality crime and incarceration rates have more or less leveled off. This is not the main issue that is supposed to be seen, the issue that is underlying all of this is the percentages and proportions of the people who are incarcerated who are black.

It was shown that on any given day blacks are six to seven times more likely to be in jail or prison. The stats show that black Americans make up approximately thirteen percent of our population, but black Americans make nearly fifty percent of those who are locked up in jail or in prison. These numbers are astonishing. To maybe illustrate this point more think of cars. Imagine if there was total of four car companies in the United States. The car company Henley held only thirteen percent of manpower and plant productivity of the market. But over fifty percent of all cars that where bought in this country each year were Henley’s. Now it seems a little more astounding if you take issues of crime and race out of the scenario. Some other statistics that were highlighted by the book show high proportions of young black men that were under the control of the criminal justice system. A study held in Baltimore found that 56 percent of black men between the ages of 18-35 were either incarcerated or had a warrant out for there arrest. So why are the number so unbalanced? It is the policies that policymakers make and the issues that surround those of color.

The crimes that Reagan wanted to deal with more severely were drug trafficking and violence induced crimes. Drug trafficking is related to drug use which is related to violence which is related to guns which is related to gangs which is related to the inner-city youth. This is the problem, that many of the crimes that are violent are being committed in the inner-city minority communities by the youth. So why don’t the people living in these communities ask for help form the police or the government? It is hard for someone to ask for help when you don’t trust them. It was shown through a New York Times poll that 60 percent of blacks believe that the government makes drugs available in poor black neighborhoods to damage black people, and that 77 percent of black people believe that the government singles out and investigates officials to ruin their credibility in the national spotlight.

So is the reason why the proportion of black men in prison are higher than whites because of discrimination against blacks? No, it is because the percentage of crimes that blacks commit for prison time are much more higher than those of whites. What leads to these crimes is the policy problems and the use of drugs in these particular communities. In my opinion Tonry has hit the issue right on with studies and statistics that prove his point. Many people seem scared to bring out this point that blacks commit a higher percentage of the imprisonable crimes than whites. It is not an issue of racism or that whites get less prison sentences, it is a fact that blacks commit more serious crimes than white people. It is a fact that many Americans can only say in their heads. Many politicians don’t want to say Tonry’s point because they are afraid that they will look like a racist. It seems that politically correctness has influenced us so much that we are afraid to listen to the truth. These are all fears that we have to deal with, black people simply commit more serious crime, proportionally, than do whites.

The War on Drugs during the Reagan Era was probably the single greatest cause of these problems for blacks. Drug offenders have singly been the greatest cause for the rise of incarceration rates in recent years. Statistics show that in 1980, 22 percent of those in federal prison were drug offenders. That percentage had risen to 42 percent in 1990 and rose to 58 percent by 1992. In a twelve year period the amount of drug offenders in federal prisons had increased by 36 percent. That number isn’t even counting the number of people who get arrested for minor drug possession and don’t even go to jail. In Pennsylvania, for example, drug offense for black men rose 1613 percent and 1750 percent for black women between the years of 1980 and 1990. The white male and female percentage rates were no where close to those. So why is the problem so apparent in the black community? It is because the drugs that are being sold in the inner-city communities, are staying in those communities. Does this sound familiar, "How come on ever street corner in the inner-city streets there is a liquor store?" That is the point that is trying to be conveyed to the readers of the book. The dealers are selling the drugs in the community, which means the drugs are being used in the communities which means that in order for some people to keep their drug habits alive they need to fall back on the incentive of theft and prostitution. It is a circle of crime that haunts these areas. For people who have not grown up in areas like this say why can’t you just leave or just stop what you are doing. Not as easily done as said. Almost all of the people in these inner-city communities who are affected by this have nothing else to live by. They were brought up in it, they have seen there parents do it, there friends do it, and the question they ask themselves is why is it so bad for me to do it? The rational is quite simple, but the consequences of it have killed so many communities.

It seems that so many of the problems that are incorporated with these issues have been dealt with by the government. But the problem is that the government has been dealing with the problems in the wrong ways. To me Tonry gives the best possible start to combating the problem.

Rehabilitation is what Tonry suggests. Through his statistics and his rational it seems that rehabilitating the communities is the direction the government should take. Making stiffer sentences for offenders of any crime is the wrong approach. In Europe, many countries have smaller prison sentences but also have a much lower incarceration rate. The reason for this is because while in prison the offenders are being rehabilitated for either drug use or they are being taught certain skills that will help them when they get out of prison. Tonry suggests this is what we should do for our inmates. The first place we have to start is rehabilitating the drug users. If we can help these people quit their habits then in turn the drug dealers will be out of business. If the programs are ran effectively it has been proven that the use of drugs by these recovered persons are next to nothing. This will make an domino affect on the whole community. People stop using drugs, people will then stop selling drugs, which will help these people get real jobs and live productive lives.

Tonry has put all of the cards on the table. He has a written a very risky book because it entails a lot of taboos that in today’s society are unspoken of. The book entails a wide variety of statistics and charts that back his claims up. I agreed with him on a lot of points. He shows what the real problem is, and gives a very believable solution

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Date: Mon, 30 Mar 1998 13:10:55 +0000
From: "Alison M. Navarrete" <amnavar@RS6000.CMP.ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Review: Tonry (Navarrete)

Michael Tonry, Malign Neglect (Oxford University Press, 1995) Reviewed by: Alison M. Navarrete

Malign Neglect has occurred in our justice system for as long as we can recall. America has been known for its opportunities, freedom, and harsh crime control policies. Who is the target of crime control polices and what do criminal justice policies believe can be done that will change the racial injustice in crime control policies? The crime control policies and welfare policies of recent years have been based on false premises: These policies have been based on the premise that below poverty benefits levels that will allow a modest living standard of safety and decency. By punishing criminals harshly we will not accomplish anything. Increasing crime punishments will not help America in the long run. Michael Tonry touches this upon along with accumulated research with statistical data.

The current system is based on false premises. This is a theme that Tonry repeatedly calls on and I feel is the most important. At every criminal stage from arrest through incarceration, blacks are present in numbers greatly out of proportion to their total presence in the general population, but not out of proportion to their tendency to commit crime. Tonry provides statistical data of what percentage exist at every stage.

There is no doubt that there is some sort of bias in the criminal punishment system, but interestingly enough, the rate at which blacks go to prison for the length of time is overwhelmingly larger than for white Americans. But we should not jump the gun and say that the numbers are not on the rise due to racial bias or discrimination within the system. These two points rather contradict each other, but Tonry does include both sides to this. Black Americans have suffered from 'statistical discrimination.' This term is defined as attributing to individuals the personal characteristics of groups of which they are members of. This term works against blacks because they belong to this minority. According to statistics, discrimination or any bias does not cause the numbers of blacks in prisons. How could this contradict the other point? There is an answer to this. It can be blamed to Reagan and Bush's administrations and their tough-on-crime followers in many states. What could be also blamed is actually the pattern of black offenders and black's criminal records. This should not surprise anyone since crime comes from socially disorganized and the economically disadvantaged areas.

The current crime control policies are not addressing the problem. The penalties have relatively little or not effect on crime rates. During Reagan's term, the prison time per violent crime had tripled. While some punishments increased in some crimes, it really does not matter in serious matters. The punishment for first time offenders was increased, while a second time offender who committed a petty crime may get off easier. Policy makers even agree with this problem. Though some punishments may deter criminals to stop speeding, there is no way a drug bust will end the problem in a community. Tonry illustrates this with Reagan and Bush's administration. They both pushed for tougher penalties, mandatory penalties, death penalties, more prisons, and reduced habeaus corpus rights. And if this was what was supposed to put dangerous violent offenders away, it definitely does its job. Also by building prison saves, not costs more - they were wrong.

This could be explained with the next argument Tonry claims against the current crime control policies is the cost effectiveness of putting someone to prison. This is highly the case. There are such cases that run in the legal system for years, which means lawyer's bills and loss of wage by the defendant is part of the problem. By putting a criminal behind bars, the government provides the inmate with food, shelter, and electric bills paid.

The last argument against the crime control policy is what type of people is in prison? There is one claim that prisons are filled with dangerous people who committed serious crimes. According to Tonry, numerous minor nonviolent offenders have been convicted. In national statistics done by the Attorney General in 1991, it is revealed that 95 percent of state prisoners have been convicted of violent crime, or are recidivists. This would suggest that prisons be reserved for violent and other serious offenders. Recidivists can be defined as those inmates that have been convicted of other crimes before they were placed in expensive prisons. With this statistic, what proportion of the 95 percent are violent offenders, are recidivists, or deserve to be in prison? According to the census, 46.6 percent of those in state prisons had been convicted of violent crimes (another 25 percent had been convicted of property crimes, 21 percent of drug crimes, and 7 percent of "public order" crimes). With the number of prisoners in 1991, 38 percent had not been incarcerated before. In other words, well over half of state prisoners had been convicted of crimes not involving violence, and two-fifths had never before been sentenced to jail or prison.

The second part of this argument goes back to the statistic. The 95 percent claim confuses prison populations with prison admissions. Because people convicted of violent crimes deservedly receive longer sentences than do people convicted of most property crimes; they remain in prison longer. The proportion of violent prisoners among those in prison is larger than the proportion of violent offenders among those admitted to prison. The proportion of those admitted to prison for violent crimes has been declining steadily.

The current crime control policies are not helping the black community. An outstanding statistic is mentioned that although blacks only make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise nearly half of the populations of U.S. prisons and jails. One could only make the conclusion that such policies will not help the less disadvantaged. What is meant by 'disadvantaged' are the people, who live in such poor neighborhoods that drug dealing is common, in which gangs are active, in which children cannot be allowed to go outdoors, and in where ordinary citizens feel at risk? Minority citizens want help from the police dealing with these problems in their community. Unfortunately, these problems have been dealt with deterrence and incapacitation poultice and the problem cannot be solved that way. All these problems are chronic social and economic conditions shaping these communities. Minority citizens would much prefer policy solutions that are going to treat crime and drug abuse as chronic conditions rather than as acute conditions. This may explain, for example, why the Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses opposed harsh crime bills under consideration in 1993/94 and why they have consistently favored more spending on drug treatment, early childhood programs, and crime prevention initiatives. Therefore, given the choice, minority citizens would greatly prefer social policies that made it much less likely that so many minority young people would wind up living lives in which crime and drugs are common.

The drug abuse is so high in lower income communities and poverty is more likely to survive in ghettos rather than a drug house on the streets of Bel Air. The problem can not be solved with the War on Drugs that presidents since Reagan's era began to push for. Reagan's administration declared this war when the drug use was in decline and had been since the early 1980s. Cases could be made for continuing support for efforts to target major importers, distributors, and traffickers, and for increasing support for drug education programs in school and for drug treatment for those who wanted it, but nor vastly more emphasis on law enforcement directed at users, user-dealers, and street-level trafficking. The goal was to reduce drug use, but this had already been achieved before the drug war began. Because of the long-term decline in drug use, any comparison of levels of use in 1985, before the war was launched, with levels in 1989 and 1990 would appear to demonstrate that toughened drug laws and enforcement practices had deterred people from buying and using drugs. Accordingly to that, the war was succeeding. This decline may have not had anything to do with the implementing policies by the administrations.

The War on Drugs had three major effects. To begin, it was a failure. If the price of cocaine, the war's signature drug, should have risen if it was riskier to obtain. The harsh street-sweep tactics in many cities should have cleared out the drug dealers and made drugs harder to find; they did not. Secondly, although the war accomplished none of its goals, it did so at great cost. The doubling of arrests in the 1980s, combined with harsher penalties, more than doubled the number of police, jail, prosecution, and court case flows. The war's effects on prisons and correctional programs were greater. Drug-offense sentences are the single most important cause of the rising population in the United States since 1980. Typical estimates of the costs of building new prisons range, depending on climate and security level, from $50,000 to $200,000 per prisoner. Third, the War on Drugs unnecessarily blighted the lives of thousands of young disadvantaged black Americans and undermined decades of effort to improve the life chances of members of the urban black underclass. The war was fought from partisan political motives to show that the Bush ad Reagan administrations were concerned about public safety, crime prevention, and needs of victims.

What is to be done with criminal control policies? According to Tonry, there are six steps that politicians could take. First, one should consider the foreseeable effects of crime control policy decisions on a member of minority groups. In other words, programs drawn by Reagan and Bush should have seen the problems that were going to occur by directing a War on Drugs. Second, set up presumptive sentencing guidelines for ordinary cases that set maximum penalties, in order to guard against racial bias in sentencing. Thirdly, we should five the utmost compassion to predecessors and give the least amount of punishment in every case. Fourth, empower judges at sentencing to mitigate sentences for all defendants, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or sex, to take account of individual circumstances. Fifth, encourage programs, which are going to treat the criminal. We should focus on rebuilding the person and their family. Lastly, being honest is the key for politicians and citizens to agree on better programs. If the people can find ways to keep the racial bias away from the legal system, they should do so.

I feel that developing a system based on treatment is the most important. Instead of spending tax dollars for an inmate to live 'comfortably' in prison, is a waste of money. Though this plan may not work and only touch few criminals, it would focus on putting the person back into society as a productive citizen. People may argue with Tonry on this point. This plan would help those who are serious offenders. Treatments could ring families together, but keeping the crime off the street in almost impossible. In a drug raid, there is a target. It could be a particular house or location where drug trafficking is occurring. Police spend days on end to attack and finally they wipe out the occupants of sting operation. These offenders go to prison and expect to face the maximum punishment. What is the problem with treatments and programs to help minorities into society is there is no place to begin. How could something be implemented into these neighborhoods when they have faced years of economic and social disadvantages? These people have had years of oppression since the times of slavery. They were expected to integrate into the society that once did not welcome them and now was telling them to assimilate. Tonry agrees with Andrew Hacker. Hacker gave evidence in Two Nations, that stated how far apart the white and black races really are. The current system should not neglect the minority and help them get away from the poverty level lives.

This book was a new way to look at the current policy on crime control. It gave an outlook to the system that may not seem apparent on the outside, but with Tonry's numerical evidence that is supported by national research studies, it is apparent that the system is not working for the good of the disadvantaged. It is an awful thought that the disadvantaged are targeted for drug busts. It is also a terrible thing that blacks make up the majority of prisoners. Tonry's book gave a successful outline of what could be done to improve the system. This book was very easy to follow and do recommend it to those who want to see a different perspective of our criminal control policies.

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Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 20:06:14 -0600
From: robert joseph nuckolls <bjnuckol@RS6000.CMP.ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Malign Neglect Review



Most of the residents in our nation's prisons are male African Americans! This is a disturbing, yet accurate statement. For years there have been documentations, reports, and studies done which discloses alarming statistics which suggest this statement as a fact. I have read several books and studies which reveal statistics regarding blacks, notably males, in prisons. I have sat in classrooms where this issue has been discussed. In the book, Malign Neglect, Micheal Tonry examines this issue.

One is immediately introduced to the plight of black Americans at the first two sentences of chapter one which reads, throughout this century, black Americans, especially men but increasingly also women, have been more likely than whites to commit violent and property crimes. They have also been more likely to be in jail or prison, on probation or parole. Throughout the book, Tonry explores the issues of black imprisonment by offering statistics through extensive research. For example, since the mid-1970's, approximately 45 percent of those arrested for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault have been black (the trend is slightly downward). Disproportionate punishments of blacks, however, have been getting worse, especially since Ronald Reagan became president. Since 1980, the number of blacks in prisons have tripled. Between 1979 and 1992 the percentage of blacks among those admitted to state and federal prisons grew from 39 to 54 percent. Incarceration rates for blacks in 1991 (1,895 per 100,000) were nearly seven times higher than those for whites (293 per 100,000). Widely publicized studies in 1990 showed that 23 percent of black males aged 20 to 29 in the United States were under criminal justice system control (as were 23 percent in New York and 33 percent in California). Studies by the National Center of Institutions and Alternatives showed that in 1991 in Washington D.C., and Baltimore, 42 and 56 percent, respectively, of black males aged 18 to 35 were under justice system control.

Tyson points out that these numbers are, and ought to be, shocking to every American. I agree, but argue the shocking of the numbers should not only be limited to Americans, but to anyone who are exposed to them, whether they are Americans or not. Tyson suggest that disturbing though the numbers are on surface, what lies below is even more disturbing and offers three reasons of this. First, the rising levels of black incarceration did not just happen; they were the foreseable effects of deliberate policies spearheaded by the Reagan and Bush administrations and implemented by many states. Tyson argues, anyone with knowledge of drug-trafficking patterns and of police arrest policies and incentives could have foreseen that the enemy troops in the War on Drugs would consist largely of young, inner-city minority males. Second, and worse, support for repressive crime control policies, with their foreseeable disproportionate impact on blacks, has been national Republican policy at least since the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, part of what Thomas Edsall calls "a conservative politics that had the effect of polarizing the electorate along the racial lines". The text may be crime. The subtext is race. Third, and perhaps worst of all, the crime control policies of recent years have undermined achievement of the overriding national goal of full unbiased incorporation of black Americans into the nation's social, political, and economic life. No modern social policy subject has recieved more attention than the black urban underclass, living in pockets of concentrated poverty, unemployment, and disadvantage, in which illegitimacy, teenage pregnancy, single-parent households, and welfare dependency are at record and growing levels.

Throughout the book, Tonry does an excellent job of maneuvering thoughts of how blacks have become prey to the criminal justice system. He discusses the state of crime and punishment (imprisonment) and gives several opinions on why this has occurred; specifically in regard to the black male population. He discusses the issues of racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system, social adversity and how it relates to criminal law, and the social adversities of punishment and sentencing policies. In each of these discussions, Tonry not only writes about these issues, he brilliantly uses statistical data to capture my attention throughout the book. Because of the blending of credible data into his ideas, the messages Tonry attempts to convey proved to be more than just "opinionated rhetoric" which other writers often fall victim to. Because he avoids "opinionated rhetoric", Tonry beliefs or messages become more than just his opinion; they become very real or believable, and possibly even fact. This becomes very apparent when he writes about race and the war on drugs. Tonry discussed the war on drugs in great detail. Although each of the topics Tonry discussed I read with much interest, it is the discussion about the war on drugs which garnered most of my attention and concentration.

Why are the majority of the residents in our nation's prisons black males? It is apparent Tonry may possibly answer this question by saying it is due to the Reagan administration's declaration of a war on drugs. Members of the black population are arrested and imprisoned for drug crimes in numbers that are far out of line with their proportions of the general population, of drug users and drug traffickers. Tonry suggest there are three effects of the war on drugs which stand out. First, it was a failure. He argues this by writing the street price of cocaine, the war's signature drug, should have risen if dealing were becoming riskier and drugs less available; prices fell. Massive arrests and street-sweep tactics in many cities, backed up by harsh mandatory prison sentences, should have cleared out the drug dealers and made drugs harder to find; they did not. Most analysts and many police officials believe that arrested street dealers are nearly always replace by others willing to take the risks and that drug sales are merely moved to other locations. There is no evidence that crime control efforts lowered levels of drug use in the

United States. Drug use was declining years before the war was declared, and the war can claim no credit for the continuation of preexisting trends. Second, although the war accomplished few if any of its ostesible goals, it did so at great cost. The doubling of arrests in the 1980's, combined with harsher penalties, more than doubled police, jail, prosecution, and court case flows and costs associated with drugs. The war's effects on prisons and correctional programs were even greater. Third, as if ineffectiveness and immense, avoidable cost were not indictment enough, they pale before the most fundamental objection. The war on drugs forseeably and unnecessarily blighted the lives of hundreds of thousands of young disadvantaged black Americans and undermined decades of effort to improve the life chances of members of the urban black underclass. The war was fought largely from partisan political motives to show that the Bush and Reagan administrations were concerned about public safety, crime prevention, and the needs of victims. The bodies counted in this war are even more disproportionately black than they already were. War or no war, most people are saddened to learn that for many years 30 to 40 percent of those admitted to prison were black. The war on drugs was a calulated effort foreordained to increase those percentages, and this is what happened.

Drug offense sentences are the single most important cause of the trebling of the prison population in the United States since 1980. Reading about Tonry's thoughts, it appears the target of the war on drugs have been mostly black American males.

Interestingly, Tonry argues the war on drugs should not have ever been declared. He suggest there declaration was late and beside the point. When the war began in 1987 and 1988, it was clear that drug use was in decline and had been since the early 1980's. Tonry indicates something was changing American attitudes toward drugs in the 1970's and 1980's, long before the politics of crime control produced a state of war. He speculated and suggested that the one reason for the decline may be attributed to Americans taking responsibility for health related concerns; taking care of their health.

Reading about the war on drugs, it appears, even if the intentions of the architects of the war on drugs were simply to curtail the use, delivery, or sale or drugs, and to institute harsh penalities as a hope of deterance, they should have known the majority of those effected by the war would be minorities. Especially since it is fairly obvious the most strategically or easiest area to infilitrate or investigate drug activity would be in poor urban minority neighborhoods than in more stable and closely knit working class and middle class neighborhoods.

Tonry writes, in the antidrug hysteria of the 1980s, crack cocaine, the emblematic drug of the latest "war", is associated in public imagery with disadvantaged minority residents in the inner city. Given what we know about past periods of intolerance of drug use and their tendencies to scapegoat minority groups, and that disadvantaged urban blacks are the archetypal users of crack cocaine, and therefore are the principle possessors, sellers, and low level distributors, anyone who knew the history of American drug policy could have foreseen that this war on drugs would target and mostly engage young disadvantaged members of minority groups as the enemy. And it has. Tonry suggested the drug policy was especially bad because the damage to minority groups members would be inflicted primarily for the benefit of the great mass of, mostly white, nondisadvantaged Americans.

Tonry related urban black Americans have borne the brunt of the war on drugs. They have been arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned at increasing rates since the early 1980s, and grossly out of proportion to their numbers in the general population or among drug users. By every standard, the war has been harder on blacks than on whites; that this was predictable makes it no less regrettable.

As one reads about the war on drugs, one should not be naive enough to think that all who will read this section will agree, even in the least, with Tonry. As premeditated and damaging to minorities, especially black males, as the war on drugs has become, there are unquestionably others who may believe the offenders, or the people who were arrested and punished for illegal drug activity, and were dealt harsh prison penalties, recieved their "just desserts". Arguments could be made that offenders were certainly aware of the penalties for drug related offenses, and need to blame noone but themselves for being residents of our nation's prison. There may even be some who while acknowledge that the orchestrators of the war on drugs should have known that much of the illegal drug activity occurs on the streets and alleys in poor urban minority neighborhoods, this is just "the nature of the beast". In fact, some may argue that the residents of these neighborhoods should be thankful that the "war" existed because drug enforcement by police officials allowed for the neighborhoods to rid itself from the blight of illegal drug activity which often involves or initiates other types of criminal related activities. Of course, opponents of this argument will suggest disadvantaged neighborhoods will have great difficulty of ridding itself from illegal drug activity because once one dealer is arrested, there is a replacement immediately ready to move in.

Some who may think about the war on drugs may have little, or no sympathy at all for those who were sentenced to prison. Although they do not totally buy into the war on drugs concept, they do not necessarily discount it. These people may think in broad, yet logical terms. These are the people who will think of the victims of these immates. The ones that the dealers sold drugs to, which often includes children and teenagers. These are the people who will think about the families of these victims and the households which were disrupted because of drug activity. These are the people who think of the victims of drug related violent crimes. These are the people who may think about those residents who reside in these disavantaged, urban minority neighborhoods who want to enjoy the outdoors without having to worry about having this activity ruined by drug dealings in their neighborhood. When thinking of black Americans who were sentenced to prisons, these are the people who may have grown tiresome of the black on black crimes (black victims) these immates often commit with little or no remorse.

Tonry suggest the architects of the war on drugs should be held morally accountable for the havoc they have wrought among disadvantaged members of minority groups. He indicates three sets of issues arise. First, were the disparate impacts on black Americans forseeable? Tonry suggest that they were. Second, putting aside its disparate impact implications, were there valid grounds for believing that the war's prohibitionistic approach would diminish drug trafficking and drug use? Third, is there any arguable basis for justifying the war's forseeable effects on

black Americans? In particular, what should be made of the standard defense of the war's racial effects, almost a confession in avoidance, that crime is intraracial and that the war's strategies were devised not to damage blacks but to protect black victims and communities? The answers to these questions are that there were no valid bases for believing that the war would accomplish its ostensible objectives, that the claim to protect black victims was disingenuous, and that there is no arguable basis for justiying the war's malign neglect of its implications for black Americans. What do you think?

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Date: Fri, 9 Apr 1999 09:21:02 -0500
From: Clayton cobb <clcobb@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Review: Malign Neglect (Clayton Cobb)

(<underline>Malign Neglect: Race, Crime and Punishment in America</underline>), by Michael Tonry. Oxford University Press, New York, 1995

Clayton Cobb


The main question addressed in Michael Tonry's Malign Neglect is, why, in spite of the fact that crimes committed by Blacks have remained stable for over twenty years, but yet Blacks are seven times more likely to serve time in prison than there White counterparts? The answer lies with the Reagan-Bush administrations who were fundamental in drafting policies that have had an effect of targeting minorities for punishment, especially Blacks.

Between 1976 and 1992, Black percentages among people arrested for murder, robbery and burglary were slightly on the rise, however, Black percentages among those arrested for rape, aggravated assault, and theft decreased. Yet, the prison populations for Blacks has nearly tripled since the 1980's, whereas that has not been the same situation for White Americans. In looking at the general percentages of Blacks in America, they comprise 13% of the population, yet comprise nearly 50% of those arrested for violent crimes and nearly the same percentage for those serving time in prison. Between 1979 and 1990, the percentages of Blacks among new admissions to prisons, at the state and federal levels, surged from 39% to 53%. Tonry questions why this might have happened. Did Blacks commit more imprisonable crimes than Whites? Did the possibility of prior criminal records influence the police's decision to arrest, and if so, did the police investigate these suspect's records prior to their arrests? If crime participation is related to economic and social deprivations, should society punish those it has neglected? After searching for answers he concludes that Blacks have been the victims of the recent "War on Drugs" policies that are waged almost entirely on Black neighborhoods. Tonry deplores the government for abandoning real policy goals for "partisan political" ones, at the cost of ruining many lives that were already marginal and vulnerable. He states the "War on Drugs' program was developed after drug use was declining in the general population in the early 1980's, although it remained high in Black neighborhoods. Public officials were aware that drug arrests are generally easier to make in socially disorganized areas than in affluent middle class locations. Dealers are more likely to sell drugs to newcomers on the streets, thus resulting in police arrests. The more arrests police make, the more society is convinced that the laws are working.

Tonry's most damning observations lie with the vastly different federal sentencing treatment of cocaine and crack. They're essentially the same compound, with two main differences. First, crack is highly popular with Blacks, while cocaine is usually used by the White middle class. Crack is a derivative of cocaine and is less expensive, therefore, Blacks can increase or maintain their drug usage with a less expensive habit.Resulting, in the users of crack cocaine being punished more severely than are users of powder cocaine. Tonry shows that in 1991, about 25% of state prisoners were convicted of drug offenses, compared to 6% in 1979.During the same time, Whites comprised 77% of all drug arrests. But, by 1992 Whites had comprised only 59% of drug arrests in comparison to their Black counterparts who comprised 22% of the drug offenses in 1979, but 40% in 1991. The evidence shows that users of crack cocaine are punished more severely than are the users of cocaine. In turn, the government mandated the "100-1" rule, which states that 1 gram of crack cocaine would be equated with 100 grams of cocaine. The results are the average prison sentences served by Black prisoners is 40% longer than those served by Whites.

Tonry states that conservatives would not agree with his positioning, because they feel that the disadvantages some Blacks experience stem not from misguided public or government crime policies, but rather from the failure of Black leadership to mobolize the Black community around self initiated progress. In this regard Tonry cites that one must look at the disadvantages of the Black community and taking one's background into account. For example, a child from a single parent home who is receiving welfare might warrant a more serious sentencing or punishment for a burglary charge than would an unmarried, non person of color, non welfare recipient defendant. His disagreement with conservative policies stem from his contempt of judges who favor mandatory prison sentences without giving the benefit of the doubt to all disadvantaged offenders.

Tonry's book denounces America's approach to curb crime in our society.Our approach is one that fails to increase public safety, and has added to the erosion of Black families and communities. Because of the removal of so many young Black men from their families and communities, these policies undermine efforts to ameliorate the conditions of life of the Black urban class.

Works Cited

Tonry, Michael. <underline>Malign Neglect: Race, Crime and Punishement in America</underline>. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 23:19:57 -0500
From: Adam E Sebastian <aeseba0@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Re: Review: Malign Neglect (Clayton Cobb)

Clayton, I'm wondering if how much you feel Tonry is right about black imprisonment in the US. Do you believe it has a lot to do with differences in punishment such as in crack and power? I believe, this may have something to do with black imprisonment such cases do not explain the trend fully. i believe the war on drugs in general is responsible for the increase in imprisonment. Along with this one must consider the increasing lack of space judges have in mandatory sentencing. I just feel that blaming how the laws discriminate may be a easy answer to the problem. We must not throw out these possibilities but have to address the larger problems of poverty, education, and drugs. While we must address the difference in punishments of crack and power, the real question should be why are so many Americans in prison? Going along with this is if the imprisonment of these Americans is really helping them and is it really helping society? i believe that having so many people in prison often does the prisoners no good and may in many long drug crimes be cruel and unusual punishment.

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Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 05:13:17 -0600
From: "Ureatha Watkins, Illinois State University" <uawatki@ilstu.edu>
Subject: Malign Neglect (Ureatha Watkins)

Why are blacks more likely than whites to go to prison? Are they (as history goes) barbaric individuals with no self-control? Are they a misunderstood race? Or does this American society reinforce negativity towards them? Everyone has their own answer to the above question, and of course Michael Tonry has is own.

According to Michael Tonry, the War on Drugs was unnecessary and a failure. The purpose of the War on Drugs was to make the price of the drugs more expensive and riskier for those to sell it, thus making drugs less available. Massive arrests and mandatory prison sentences did not make drugs harder to find. There is no evidence that the War on Drugs lowered levels of drug use in the United States. Drug use was declining before the War on Drugs went into effect, so it should take no credit for the decline. With the War on Drugs in effect it doubled arrests, police, prosecution, court, and the prison system. 70% of federal funding was devoted to law enforcement with the remaining 30% to be shared between treatment and education. This war was in effect by the Reagan-Bush administrations to show concern for public safety, crime prevention, and the needs of victims. Tonry believe that this was a calculated plan by these administrations to increase the percentages of blacks in the justice system.

The war on drugs was launched to appeal to the moral pleasures of the majority of Americans. Since drug trafficking is more visible in the inner cities, more scapegoats are bound to be found in that area, the black communities. “At no time during the Reagan-Bush era was treatment on demand available for all cocaine and heroine addicts who wanted it.” Tonry believes that treatment is very necessary, whether or not they want the services or not. We, as Americans need to invest in human capital. This would provide avenues for individuals in need to get the help that they need. More concentration should be focused on importers, manufacturers, and major distributors, instead of “instantly replaceable user-dealers.”

Tonry seeks to educate the American population, according to his research regarding blacks in the prison system. He wants to help the American society grow and prosper without the downfall of a race. He illustrates “why and how we must develop policies that understand crime as a consequence of social disorganization and adversity and criminal justice policies as a cause of disorganization and adversity.”

He believed that this book would offend readers on both the right and left sides of political life. Those on the far left will probably be offended by his conclusion that racial differences (offending patterns) are the reason a greater number of blacks are involved in the criminal justice system, in comparison to whites. Those on the far right will probably be offended by his conclusion that policies brought about by the “Bush-Reagan administrations are the reason that racial disparities in the justice system worsened after 1980.”

Tonry supports his ideas by presenting statistical evidence: in regards to crime type-specific percentages of blacks in prison. Homicide: 52.3% (17.7 total prison population), forcible rape 56.3% (4.4% total prison population), robbery 61.2%(25.2% total prison population), aggravated assault 42.3% (8.2% prison population), burglary 42.3% (18.1% total prison population), drugs 39.5% (5.7% total prison population). Along with these statistics, there are percentages of disproportionality that are unexplained.

Tonry mentions the racial differences involving drugs. There are different treatments involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Crack cocaine offenses were generally given harsher penalties, than powder cocaine, even though they are pharmacologically indistinguishable. One gram of crack is treated as equivalent to one hundred grams of powder. The racial difference is that crack cocaine tends to be sold and used by blacks and powder cocaine tends to be used by whites. 95% of federal crack prosecutions are brought against black, and 40% of powder cocaine prosecutions are brought against whites. Sentences for blacks were 41% longer than sentences for whites and the different penalties were because of crack and powder cocaine.

These high percentages of black Americans in the prison system is still a growing problem. Black families and their communities are greatly affected by this problem. With a great percentage of black men in prison, no one is there to maintain that positive male role model in a child’s life. Parents of these children are lacking good parental supervision. Thus, creating the cycle again for a new generation.

He simply wants to “express better ways to attack victims’ rights, while doing less harm to disadvantaged members of minority groups.” He suggests that politicians are satisfied with the way things are now. They are content with investing less in education. Possible solutions to this still growing problem, 1) universal health care, 2) universal Social Security, 3) adequate public education, 4) decent affordable housing, 5) reinvestment in the cities, 6) full employment economy, and individualizing punishments, each person has special circumstances.

Malign neglect characterizes policy makers’ indifference to the racial effects of their policies. Conservative politicians have played on white Americans fears and on racial stereotypes, to keep this cycle going. This is a very important subject matter that is still a growing problem with American society. It involves all Americans. It shows one person’s view of politics and government and the agendas in which they set. As an African American woman I felt some form of vindication while reading this book. Finally, a well thought out research plot by the government against people unlike the majority. It made sense to me. The government developing new and interesting ways to keep the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. Tonry discusses the possible consequences that the Bush-Regan administrations were bound to conclude. The effect of the crack/powder distinction would have had. Thus, if they knew of the possible problems that it would create, why go about it anyway (conspiracy)? A conspiracy to keep everyone exactly where they want them, seen and under control.

The numbers don’t always lie. There is always a reason why things go a certain way. This may or may not be the reason why so many black males are incarcerated. This does make one wonder just what the government has in store for you. If you are white, do you have to wonder about the same issues that minorities do? Will you be harassed by the police on your way home, just because you looked suspicious? Or will any person driving a hydro-base booming vehicle be stopped, searched, and questioned? Will the criminal justice system continue to enforce harsher penalties against those caught with crack, in comparison to being caught with heroine? Will the government ever be fair in providing equally adequate public education to children? Eventually these growing “minority” problems will linger over to the white suburbs, what will they do then?

I believe that getting rid of drug dealers in Minority communities is very necessary. I also believe that each police officer should treat that community in which he works as if it were his own, an area in which his own kids live. Yes, you do have crack houses in white suburb communities, you just don’t see as many of them as you would in a minority community. There is no way to rid of drugs. We must come to that realization. One can only educate themselves and others on the effects of them. You cannot choose someone’s life path for them, some will fall. When that happens lend a helping hand when needed. In the mean time, educate the children, so that the cycle does not repeat itself.

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