the Criminal Justice system  and War on drugs

White people will get rehabilitation. Black and Latino people will get incarceration.
— Brenton Mock, Citylab

Drugs and racialized law enforcement in New York state

The law enforcement and crime control efforts targeting drug use and distribution, which came to be known as the war on drugs, were promoted as an ostensibly race neutral set of policies, aimed at curtailing drug use. Despite research demonstrating high rates of drug use among affluent, suburban or white youths and higher rates of substance use among white than nonwhite populations, enforcement practices largely targeted communities of colors.  Discriminatory enforcement of drug laws resulted in extraordinarily high and disproportionate rates of Black and Latino incarceration.

In New York State drug users were punished through the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws which was responsible for over 200,000 prison admission for drug offenses from 1980-2007. The Rockefeller Drug Laws have been a significant factor in sending large numbers of Black and Latino men to prison. In the past decade, approximately 40 percent of prison admissions have been for drug offenses. Since 2003, 9 in 10 of those sent to prison for drug offenses have been people of color.The pattern of selective enforcement of drug laws has had a devastating impact on communities of color that had to contend the destabilizing nature of familial incarceration.

Read the Better By Half to learn more about large scale decarceration in  New York

Race and Drug Convictions.

Female Drug possession convictions

Source: Division of Criminal Justice Services

Male Drug possession convictions

Source: Division of Criminal Justice Services

all drug decriminalization

One solution to reducing the number of people swept into the criminal justice system for drug law violations is to enact various forms of decriminalization of drug use and possession. Decriminalization is the removal of criminal penalties for drug law violations. Roughly, two dozen countries, and dozens of U.S. cities and states, have taken steps toward decriminalization. By decriminalizing possession and investing in treatment and harm reduction services, we can reduce the harms of drug misuse while improving public safety and health.

medication assisted treatment in corrections (MAT)

Once incarcerated in New York State’s prisons, opioid-dependent incarcerated individuals are forced to undergo abrupt opioid withdrawal.Despite the efficacy of MAT in the community setting, the successes of the few programs which allow in-prison MAT, and the policy recommendations made by several global health organizations New York State correctional facilities have yet to adopt MAT as a standard treatment modality.