There are more black men behind bars or under the watch of the criminal justice system than there were enslaved in 1850, wrote Michelle Alexander, author of the 2010 novel The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Many criminal justice and civil rights advocates have pointed to harsh drug sentencing as the source of the disproportionate number of African Americans incarcerated in the United States each year.
African Americans constitute 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to Census data issued in 2011, yet black men reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates. Additionally, the large sentencing disparity between crack possession and cocaine possession still exists in several states despite the implementation of the Fair Sentencing Acts of 2010.
In recent years, the Republican and Democrat parties have joined together to combat sky-rocketing incarceration rates that have led to overpopulation in and overspending for prisons. Brought on primarily by the financial crisis, this shift in policy and political standpoint on incarceration issues has sparked reform movements across the nation, even in areas with the harshest criminal justice systems.
Check out the slideshow we’ve compiled below of some states that have reformed their drug sentencing laws.