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Mississippi Activists are Calling for State Leaders to Change Drug Policies

By Paul Boger | Published 18 Nov 2013 09:15am | comments
Activist groups are calling on state leaders to reform Mississippi's drug laws. As MPB's Paul Boger reports those organizations say the laws discriminatory toward minorities and immigrants.
 
Harriet Johnson is a trial lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Jackson. She says data she's collected shows that minorities and immigrants are much more likely to be put in prison than whites.
 
"One in 205 people who are incarcerated are white." said Johnson. "One in 79 people are Hispanic, and one in 33 black people are arrested. So significantly more black and Hispanic people are actually arrested or convicted than white people." 
 
That's why activists and community leaders are calling on government officials to change what they believe is the number one cause of imprisonment in Mississippi -- the state's drug policy. 
 
Patricia Ice is with MIRA -- the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. She says the state's drug laws are discriminatory toward people of color, especially when it comes to crack cocaine.
 
"What we have found is that there are more white people using drugs than there are black people using drugs." said Ice. "The black people who are using crack cocaine or selling crack cocaine have the greater penalties, and that is not fair."
 
Nsombi Lambright is with One Voice -- a progressive civil rights organization. She says the state should reform it's drug laws and instead look at them as public health issues
"We think those resources could be redirected to give more money to prevention and public health versus law enforcement." said Lambright. "What we're finding is that Mississippi inumber two in incarceration and there is millions of dollars being spent locking people up for long sentences that really need to be out working, or getting help for any type of drug addiction or any type of problem that they may have.
 
According to a recent report published by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Mississippi's prison population has grown by more than 130 percent over the last 20 years; growth that some believe can be attributed to the state's harsh drug laws.
 

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