I congratulate Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for his bold attempt to address racism in our criminal justice and drug policy statutes, and I am mystified as to why The Courant would contend doing so “poisons the debate” [May 15, editorial, “Mr. Malloy Poisons Debate”].
Malloy’s recent comments on the racist outcomes of urban drug-free zones were careful, nuanced and accurate. As the editorial points out, the enhanced penalties for possessing or dealing drugs within the 1,500- foot drug-free zones cause people who live in cities (where zones are plentiful and overlapping) to experience much greater incarceration rates than people who live in suburbs (where zones are sparse).
Every study I’ve ever seen makes it abundantly clear that this law results in people of color (high percentage city dwellers) receiving harsher penalties than white people (high percentage suburbanites) for the exact same crimes. Yes, we can call this unfair; we can call it discriminatory, but that avoids the deeper issue. It is also the very definition of structural racism.
Given events from Ferguson and Staten Island last summer to Baltimore more recently, shouldn’t we be welcoming our governor’s attempts to talk openly and honestly about race and racism? I’d like to suggest that a failure to take racism seriously is what is poisoning this debate. I urge all legislators to support the governor’s “Second Chance Society” legislation.
The Rev. Josh Pawelek, Glastonbury
The writer is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester.
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