Thank you for your article about forfeiture (Herald, Sept. 17). Forfeiture is just one example of how our criminal justice system is devastating poor communities of color. “Stand Your Ground,” “Three Strikes,” “Stop and Frisk” and mandatory minimum sentences are “get-tough” laws resulting from the “War on Drugs.” These laws allowed George Zimmerman to kill Trayvon Martin and have resulted in incarceration of millions for low-level violations.
Although the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, three-fourths of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been black or Latino. Even after release from incarceration, former prisoners still find themselves in a discriminatory system that sets them up for recurrent failure. They are unlikely to find work when they have to “check the (felony) box,” are ineligible for public housing or food stamps and are denied the right to vote or serve on juries.
How did such a repressive system come to be, and how has it endured, largely under the radar, for the last 40 years? What can be done to address this “human-rights nightmare”? These questions will be addressed at a free program at 7 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, 419 San Juan Drive. There will be a one-hour recorded presentation by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This will be followed by a discussion led by Nancy Stoffer, coordinator of diversity programming at Fort Lewis College and vice chairwoman of the Durango Community Relations Commission, and Beth Padilla, immigration attorney.