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Rethinking drug policies may help reduce crime

Changing how drug crimes are handled by authorities in Pennsylvania and throughout the country could reduce racial disparities in the justice system. A research team led by a professor from the University of California in San Francisco came to this conclusion by researching the impact of Proposition 47. The team found that one month after it passed, the disparity between black and white individuals taken into custody for a felony monthly dropped from 81 to 44 per 100,000.

That team is now looking to see whether reclassifying drug crimes leads to changes in how people are charged or in how authorities treat cases after a person is taken into custody. Another study from the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco found that the recidivism rate dropped after Proposition 47 passed. However, a representative of University of California, San Diego acknowledged that legislation such as Proposition 47 doesn't end racial bias in society.

If a person is taken into custody, it can have a profound impact on his or her life. For instance, those who have a criminal record may have a harder time accessing housing benefits or getting a college degree. By examining the racial component of law enforcement, it can help to bring about policy changes that help the community as a whole.

The penalties for convictions on drug charges could range from a fine to jail or prison time. A conviction for drug use or possession could also make it harder to get a job or go to school. An attorney may be able to defend against the charge in a variety of ways, such as casting doubt on physical evidence, witness testimony or a police report.

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