Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pg. 99: Doris Marie Provine's "Unequal Under Law"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Unequal Under Law: Race in the War on Drugs by Doris Marie Provine.

About the book, from the publisher:
Race is clearly a factor in government efforts to control dangerous drugs, but the precise ways that race affects drug laws remain difficult to pinpoint. Illuminating this elusive relationship, Unequal under Law lays out how decades of both manifest and latent racism helped shape a punitive U.S. drug policy whose onerous impact on racial minorities has been willfully ignored by Congress and the courts.

Doris Marie Provine’s engaging analysis traces the history of race in anti-drug efforts from the temperance movement of the early 1900s to the crack scare of the late twentieth century, showing how campaigns to criminalize drug use have always conjured images of feared minorities. Explaining how alarm over a threatening black drug trade fueled support in the 1980s for a mandatory minimum sentencing scheme of unprecedented severity, Provine contends that while our drug laws may no longer be racist by design, they remain racist in design. Moreover, their racial origins have long been ignored by every branch of government. This dangerous denial threatens our constitutional guarantee of equal protection of law and mutes a much-needed national discussion about institutionalized racism — a discussion that Unequal under Law promises to initiate.
Among the early praise for Unequal Under Law:
Unequal under Law goes beyond conventional analyses of the War on Drugs and probes into the historical antecedents of current policy. The picture that emerges is one in which racial dynamics have always pervaded drug policy, from the criminalization of opium in the nineteenth century to Prohibition to the indefensible crack cocaine penalties of today. Only by understanding these basic functions can we assess the true implications of current drug policy and develop more constructive policy responses.”
—Marc Mauer, executive director, The Sentencing Project

Unequal under Law is a masterful overview of the War on Drugs, drawing compelling historical continuity between different eras of U.S. policies toward ‘mind-altering substances’ and vulnerable populations. For future research and informed policy discussions in this area, Provine has set a new bar, and the bar is very high. This is an unusual combination of meticulous scholarship, analytic acumen, and ‘the big picture.’”
—Troy Duster, New York University

“This book will help the forces for racial justice, for drug law reform, and more broadly for human rights in criminal justice and law. It should help rekindle the much-needed debate about the deeply racist consequences of current drug laws.”
—Craig Reinarman, University of California, Santa Cruz
Read more about Unequal Under Law at the University of Chicago Press website, and learn more about the author and her work at Doris Marie Provine's faculty webpage.

Provine is a professor in the School of Justice & Social Inquiry at Arizona State University, currently on leave as a Fulbright Scholar at the Centro de Investigaciones sobre America del Norte.

The Page 99 Test: Unequal Under Law.

--Marshal Zeringue