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Report shows war on drugs targets black males

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Albany/HV: Report shows war on drugs targets black males
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The Center for Law and Justice is calling out law enforcement practices in Albany in a study that found the war on drugs has unfairly targeted African American men in the city. But, as our Lori Chung reports, officials say their report misses the mark.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- "Mass incarceration feeds on itself. The more you use it, the more you're likely to target and incarcerate blacks," said Alice Green.

That's the scenario the Center for Law and Justice says has been playing out in Albany with the so-called war on drugs claiming African American males as casualties more than any other group.

"We know that the drug market is really a segregated market," said Green, the Executive Director. "Whites sell to whites and blacks sell to blacks."

But according to the Center's new report, the prosecution of those crimes vary.

"We find upwards of 94 percent of those convicted of illegal drug use or sale are African American and Latino" said Green.

The report cites drug sweeps in the city that have led to the arrests of black male youth in large numbers. Many like Ruth Gordon's grandson are facing lengthy prison sentences for non-violent offenses.

"Next thing you know, they were all arrested under RICO law," said Gordon. "And you see it every day and you get tired of it."

But law enforcement officials say the report oversimplifies the issue.

"A lot of our intelligence nowadays is data driven," says Craig Apple, Albany County Sheriff. "So, if there's a lot of red dots on the map in a certain neighborhood, we're going to look at it."

Apple says any criminal, regardless of color can expect to get caught. District Attorney David Soares is also skeptical of the findings, citing the 32 percent drop in violent crime in Albany in the last 10 years as proof that police are doing their best.

"I don't believe it's right to criticize law enforcement for its emphasis in particular communities where we're seeing the most shootings, where victims of many of these shootings are in fact African American males," said Soares.

While Green says people should be held accountable for their actions if involved in criminal activity, but the arrest rate is devastating communities. But all sides seem to agree that there need to be more leaders at the table to help come up with solutions.

The center is calling on Governor Cuomo to form a task force to look at disparities in law enforcement and its effect on the African American male population with the goal of changing what they call ineffective policies.

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