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In the United States different drugs and whether they are trafficked or possessed affects the fines and imprisonment that an individual would receive if they were caught with a controlled substance.

These laws became strict in 1986 with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986  setting mandatory sentences for drug offenders and methods for the police to handle different controlled substances.

“In Radnor Township we rarely do see some sort of drug deal happen in the open, whereas you can possibly see more drug deals happen maybe in other more poor neighborhoods,” Vivian Smith, assistant professor of criminology, said. “That has been termed by researchers as open versus closed drug markets.”

The major difference in these two types of drug deals it that in open markets, police can see the deal happening and act accordingly, but in a closed market which would be more likely in suburban areas, deals take place away from the public eye.

“When you go into prisons and jails, often times you see poor individuals , usually from already marginalized neighborhoods, in the prison system mainly because of the way that they are policed,” Smith said.

“No question, minorities are imprisoned on a large scale for drug offenses in particular even though the majority of drug users in this country are members of the majority population that is white Americans,” Stephan Clyburn, professor of political science at West Chester University, said.

Stop-and-frisk” laws make it even more likely for a marginalized individual to face charges for drug possession. In 2012, the New York Civil Liberties Union found that this practice was ineffective and contributed to racial disparities.

The scenario in New York plays out differently just a few miles away on Wall Street where businessmen in suits make-up the crowds.

“Those individuals are not stopped, and I don’t think they would be stopped,” Smith said. “They look a certain way. They look wealthier, they look like they wouldn’t be ‘up to no good.”

Smith mentioned the 100:1 rule that set apart sentencing for crack and cocaine powder which leads to further disparity and inequality.



“Individuals will say that this is because they believe crack cocaine is more addictive, but if you get into the pharmacological effects of crack cocaine and the way that crack cocaine is taken, then you can make an argument for the opposite,” Smith said.