DES MOINES, Iowa (KWQC) – The American Civil Liberties Union has released a new study on racial disparities in arrests for drug possession, and Iowa has scored dismally low.
According to the report, a black person in Iowa is roughly 7 times more likely than a white person to be arrested for drug possession despite other studies showing that both races use drugs at about the same rates.
Iowa ranked the second-worst in the country for racial disparity in drug arrests. Only Montana ranked lower. Overall, black people in the United States are nearly 11 times more likely than white people to be arrested for drug possession.
The ACLU/Human Rights Watch says this isn’t the first time Iowa has ranked so poorly. This study expands on an earlier report based on marijuana possession. In that study, Iowa ranked the worst state in the country. The study found that a black person in Iowa is 8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person.
The report released today, Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States, looked at an array of illicit drugs including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs consumed for non-medical purposes. The report is based on FBI and other government data, and it documents the effects of criminalizing drug possession in America.
The report also points out the effects of racial disparity arrests on voter turnout. Iowa is one of three states that instantly and permanently takes away a person’s right to vote following a felony conviction. Gaining that right back is a difficult process overseen by the Iowa governor’s office.
“This report underscores the need for Iowa policymakers to act with urgency to address the crisis in racial disparities that exists in our criminal justice system and which creates political outcasts of our citizens, especially black people, through lifetime felony disenfranchisement from voting rights,” said Rita Bettis, ACLU Legal Director.
Of course, drug charges have many other numerous consequences that impacts a person’s family, job opportunities, and finances. More people are arrested in the United States for drug possession than any other crime. In the wake of these reports’ findings, the ACLU/Human Rights Watch is suggesting that more discussions on criminal justice reform include consideration of whether any kind of drug use should be criminalized.
“We urge lawmakers to work to reform drug sentences, act to decriminalize possession for personal use, and end felony disenfranchisement in our state,” Bettis said.