Can the Supreme Court Continue to Live with Our Arbitrary and Capricious Death Penalty?


The Criminalization of Gentrifying Neighborhoods

Areas that are changing economically often draw more police—creating conditions for more surveillance and more potential misconduct.

When low-income neighborhoods see an influx of higher-income residents, social dynamics and expectations change. One of those expectations has to do with the perception of safety and public order, and the role of the state in providing it. The theory goes that as demographics shift, activity that was previously considered normal becomes suspicious, and newcomers—many of whom are white—are more inclined to get law enforcement involved. Loitering, people hanging out in the street, and noise violations often get reported, especially in racially diverse neighborhoods.

How Drug-Free School Zones Backfired

“We found several instances of judges chastising police for setting up undercover buys in drug-free school zones, and criminal defense lawyers told us it was not an uncommon occurrence,” said Ciaramella. “It’s contrary to the entire purpose of the zone—to keep drugs out—and gives the appearance that police are more interested in slapping drug offenders with enhanced sentences than keeping kids safe.

And those longer sentences?

In many states they have effectively meant harsher penalties for poor people, because drug-free school zones were expanded to include public housing. People in relatively wealthy neighborhoods thus risked one punishment for selling or possessing drugs, while people in relatively poor neighborhoods risked a much harsher penalty. The disparity contributed to racial inequities in sentencing and incarceration. Taxpayers were on the hook for bigger prison bills.”

Prescription drug abuse increasingly seen as a major U.S. public health problem

Today, 76% of the public says that prescription drug abuse is an extremely or very serious public health problem in America, compared with 63% who said the same in 2013.”

Concerns about mental illness are also up slightly from 2013. Currently, 72% say mental illness is an extremely or very serious public health problem, compared with 67% who said this four years ago

Nearly eight-in-ten whites (79%) say prescription drug abuse as an extremely or very serious public health problem, a 17-percentage-point increase from 2013. Among nonwhites, 73% view prescription drug abuse as a major problem, little changed from four years ago (65%).

Two-thirds of nonwhites say smoking is an extremely or very serious public health problem, while 42% of whites say the same.

Many Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (78%) say mental illness is an extremely or very serious public health problem, compared with 63% of Republicans and Republican leaners. The partisan gap is about as large in views of AIDS, with 54% of Democrats and 39% of Republicans viewing it as at least a very serious public health concern.