26). African Americans, for example, though representing only 13 percent of illegal drug users in the US, comprise 74 percent of the population arrested for drug possession (Roach, 2002, p. 27). Nationwide, once an African American teenager is convicted of a drug crime, that teen is 48 times more likely to be sentenced to prison than a Caucasian teen convicted of the same crime (Palmberg, 2003, p. 17).
If the US is to achieve racial and social parity in its criminal justice system, it must be prepared to enforce a radical shift in its social welfare philosophy. Because racial minorities are overrepresented in the lower classes, the first step in addressing racism in the justice system is to address the neighborhoods that are 'providing' so many future prison inmates. Social policies that create equality, allow for social mobility, and cultivate opportunity for the poor will naturally reduce crime and restore some racial and social parity to the criminal justice system. Furthermore, selective policing must be monitored closely. Police precincts and courtrooms should be duty-bound to ensure that Caucasians are not policed less for the same crimes as non-Caucasians. Given the incredible disparity that has so far been the rule on this matter, adjusting for greater parity should notùat least initiallyùbe too daunting a task.
The problem of overcrowding in the courts and in the prisons is also a problem, related directly to the additional problem of what to do with that percentage of the nearly 2 million incarcerated Americans that will be released during the coming years (Marciniak, 2002, p. 10). Though the US accounts for only 5 percent of the world's population, it holds 25 percent of its prisoners (Marciniak, 2002, p. 10). Clearly, any reform to the criminal justice system will need to involve a