Returning Citizens

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a drug criminal. What race is the person you imagined? If you are like 95% of people in America, you imagined a black man, even though African Americans are slightly less likely than Whites or Hispanics to use illegal drugs.

Our racist beliefs about drug use cause real damage to people and communities in DC. Nine out of 10 people in D.C.’s Department of Corrections are African American. Almost all of them are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. This is not small scale. The Community Supervision Program supervises 16,200 on any given day.

There is no sign of improvement. Even though there is less and less crime each year, more and more African Americans (men and women) are being arrested, mostly for nonviolent drug offences, mostly in Southeast DC.

Arresting Black people is a major industry in DC. Even though the Mayor has cut funding for parks, education and housing, the police and Attorney General are getting increased resources every year. Millions and millions of dollars of our money are being spent arresting Black people for nonviolent drug offenses.

Being arrested and sent to jail can ruin your life. Employers are legally allowed to discriminate against people with criminal records, and they do. One study sent out imaginary CVs to hundreds of companies. They found that 14% of companies offered jobs to Black men, but only 5% offered jobs to Black men with a criminal record, even though they had exactly the same qualifications.

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