Wednesday Morning Grab Bag

–Justin Barker’s family has filed a civil suit against the Jena Six defendants, their parents, an additional student who was allegedly involved in the fight and the local school board–which, the suit claims (according to this USA Today article), “was not adequately supervising students or maintaining discipline.”

— One of the four suspects indicted on murder and burglary charges in the killing of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor, CNN reports, is 17-year-old Eric Rivera Jr. The judge in the case found probable cause to charge Rivera as an adult with first-degree felony murder and burglary with assault or battery with a firearm. The other three suspects are of the age of majority: Venjah K. Hunte (20), Jason Scott Mitchell (19) and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow (18). Rivera allegedly pulled the trigger.

–The Justice Policy Institute has released a new report called “The Vortex: The Concentrated Racial Impact of Drug Imprisonment and the Characteristics of Punitive Counties.” According to the press release, the report “documents racial disparities in the use of prison for drug offenses in 193 of the 198 counties that reported to government entities” and found that “97 percent of the nation’s large-population counties imprisoned African Americans at a higher rate than whites.” Among the report’s major findings:

• While tens of millions of people use illicit drugs, prison and policing responses to drug behavior have a concentrated impact on a subset of the population. In 2002, there were 19.5 million illicit drug users, 1.5 million drug arrests, and 175,000 people admitted to prison for a drug offense.

• While African Americans and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates, African Americans are ten times more likely than whites to be imprisoned for drug offenses.

• Of the 175,000 admitted to prison nationwide in 2002, over half were African American, despite the fact that African Americans make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population.

• There is no relationship between the rates at which people are sent to prison for drug offenses and the rates at which people use drugs in counties. For example, although Rockingham County, NH, has a larger percent of its population reporting illicit drug use, Jefferson Parish, LA, sent more people to prison for a drug offense at a rate 36 times that of Rockingham.

–Michael Connelly at the Corrections Sentencing blog (the newest addition to the Juvienation blogroll) has a thoughtful comment about the JPI report. The blog, which is intended to be “a place for corrections/sentencing policy readers seeking latest information and research, answers to questions and concerns, or just general conversation on shared worlds,” is a gem. Check it out.

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