June 25, 2011
By Althea Fung, National Journal
Tobacco companies advertise more and have lowered the price of menthol cigarettes in California stores near high schools with large African American student populations, according to a new report from the Stanford School of Medicine.
An overwhelming majority – 86 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute – of African American smokers prefer the minty flavor of menthol cigarettes. Tobacco companies are capitalizing on this, the Stanford team said.
“The tobacco companies went out of their way to argue to the Food & Drug Administration that they don’t use racial targeting,” Lisa Henriksen of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in a statement. “This evidence is not consistent with those claims.”
Henrikson’s team randomly selected convenience stores, small markets and places selling cigarettes within easy walking distance of 91 schools in 2006.
In what they call “predatory” marketing patterns geared at young blacks, the researchers found the proportion of menthol cigarette advertisements increased by 5.9 percentage points as the proportion of black students increased by 10 percentage points. Additionally the odds of an advertised discount on Newport cigarettes – the leading brand of menthol cigarettes – were 1.5 times greater.
The 2011 edition of the National Journal survey of “Hill people”—that is, high-level staffers to members of Congress—revealed something we probably already knew: Capitol Hill is really white and really male. Now, the question among some is how that indisputable fact may impact policies for women and people of color.
According to the survey, which occurs every three years, fully 93 percent of top staffers on the Hill are white. Nearly 70 percent are male. While Democrats have a slightly more equitable gender ratio—62 percent male, 38 percent female—their staff is still 91 percent white.
June 3, 2011
Amnesty International recently released a maternal health graphic, bringing attention to the country’s maternal health care crisis, as well as legislative developments in the last year that could signal some progress on the issue.
It shows that despite spending more money per capita on healthcare than any other country, we rank 50th in the world for our maternal mortality ratios. To make matter worse, while care for childbearing women and newborns is the number one reason for hospitalization in the U.S., preventable deaths of both newborns and mothers in relation to childbirth are alarmingly high, especially for women of color.
July 28, 2010
After decades of debate, research and recommendations, the United States Congress has approved legislation to increase fairness in sentences for crack cocaine offenses. The House of Representatives today passed, under a suspension of the rules, a bill passed by the Senate in March which would reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. The bill now awaits the President’s signature.
The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 would raise the minimum quantity of crack cocaine that triggers a 5-year mandatory minimum from 5 grams to 28 grams, and from 50 grams to 280 grams to trigger a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. The amount of powder cocaine required to trigger the 5 and 10-year mandatory minimums remains the same, at 500 grams and 5 kilograms respectively. The legislation also eliminates the mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack cocaine. The quantity disparity between crack and powder cocaine would move from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1.
The Sentencing Project has long advocated for the complete elimination of the sentencing disparity that has doled out excessive and harsh penalties, and created unwarranted racial disparity in federal prisons. Currently, 80% of crack cocaine defendants are African American, and possession of as little as 5 grams of crack cocaine subject defendants to a mandatory five-year prison term. For decades the controversial cocaine sentencing law has exemplified the disparate treatment felt in communities of color and the harshness of mandatory minimum sentences.
According to estimates from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the approved changes to the current penalties for crack cocaine offenses could impact nearly 3,000 defendants a year by reducing their average sentence 27 months. The Commission projects that 10 years after enactment the changes could produce a prison population reduction of about 3,800.
For people currently serving time for low-level crack cocaine offenses, the bill’s passage will not impact their fate. The Sentencing Project urges Congress, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the President to apply the sentencing adjustments mandated in the Fair Sentencing Act retroactively.
May 20, 2010
Assessing the wealth holdings of the same families for 23 years (1984-2007) shows that the wealth gap between whites and African Americans increased more than 4 times, from $20,000 in 1984 to $95,000 in 2003. This gap persisted for African Americans and white families in the same income range. For example, middle-income white households had greater gains in financial assets than high-income African Americans; by 2007, they had accumulated $74,000, whereas the average high-income African American family owned only $18,000. At least 25% of all African American families had no assets to turn to in times of economic hardship.
April 30, 2010
Presented by the Opportunity Agenda, The State of Opportunity in America, 2010 documents America’s progress in protecting opportunity for everyone who lives here. By analyzing government data across a range of indicators, this update of our 2006, 2007, and 2009 reports assesses the state of opportunity for our nation as a whole, as well as for different groups within our society.
April 21, 2010
TYLERTOWN, MISS. — During her elementary school years in this rural Mississippi town, Addreal Harness, a competitive teenager with plans to be a doctor, said her classes had about the same numbers of white and black students. It was a fact she took little note of until the white kids began leaving.
Some left in seventh grade, even more in eighth, and by the time Harness, who is African American, reached Tylertown High School, she became aware of talk that has slowly seeped into her 16-year-old psyche — that some white parents call Tylertown “the black school,” while Salem Attendance Center, where many of her white classmates transferred, is known as “the white school.”
April 1, 2010
Every year, the National Urban League issues its report on the State of Black America, and it almost inevitably shows that black Americans fare worse than whites in almost every measure of socioeconomic well-being. Black workers and households are poorer, less secure, and more vulnerable to the volatility of market forces than their white counterparts.
March 30, 2010
States with Greater Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Higher Unemployment Rates Received Less Recovery Funds in 2009
An analysis by Advancement Project of state ARRA fund allocations in
2009 and their diversity levels reveals a statistically significant inverse
relationship between the per capita level of ARRA funds and diversity. In
other words, states with greater racial and ethnic diversity received less
ARRA funds in 2009.
December 20, 2009
By Keith Perine, CQ Staff
Earlier this year, it looked like Congress was going to make good on President Obama’s campaign promise to eliminate the wide disparity in federal criminal sentences for those selling crack and powder cocaine. But the effort has since bogged down because Senate Republicans won’t go along with completely eliminating the disparity.
Under a 1986 law that Congress hurriedly passed in response to a perceived epidemic of crack cocaine use, a drug-trafficking offense must involve 100 times as much powder cocaine as crack to trigger the same mandatory prison sentence. For example, distribution of five grams of crack warrants a five-year prison term, but distributors of powder cocaine don’t face that punishment unless they’re caught with at least 500 grams. At the time Congress passed the law, crack cocaine was considered more addictive and dangerous. Opponents of the sentencing structure have been trying for several years to change it.
The lower sentencing trigger for crack has had a disproportionate impact on African-Americans. According to a 2007 report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 82 percent of crack cocaine federal offenders in 2006 were black.
But proponents of the change have not been able to round up enough votes to completely eliminate the disparity. Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin , an Illinois Democrat, has been wooing several Republicans on legislation that would do so. So far, though, Republicans engaged on the issue say they prefer reducing, but not eliminating, the disparity.
“Crack cocaine is a more dangerous drug,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a former federal prosecutor and the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
On Oct. 15, Durbin introduced a bill that would eliminate the disparity, but for now it doesn’t appear likely to pick up GOP support unless he modifies his measure to preserve some difference in sentencing for crack and powder, such as a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio. And like so many other bills in the 111th Congress, the legislation is going to need some Republican backing in order to succeed, at least in the Senate.
Jasmine Tyler, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance Network, said that simply narrowing the disparity “would be akin to only desegregating a fraction of schools.”
The House Judiciary Committee in July approved a bill by Virginia Democrat Robert C. Scott that would eliminate the disparity, but it was on a party-line vote. The bill has 52 cosponsors — and only one of them, Ron Paul of Texas, is a Republican. Scott said that House Republicans “appear to be solidly for the status quo, or at least not supporting the bill.”
Last week, Scott was still working on lining up a simple majority for his measure in the House, for a possible floor vote next month.
Meanwhile, Justice Department officials are working on a study of federal sentencing policy, including cocaine sentences, that could lend momentum to the Democrats. But as of last week, the study wasn’t finished.