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From the Washington Post

For the first time since crack cocaine sparked a war on drugs 20 years ago, the number of black Americans in state prisons for drug offenses has fallen sharply, while the number of white prisoners convicted for drug crimes has increased , according to a report released today.

The D.C.-based Sentencing Project reported that the number of black inmates in state prisons for drug offenses had fallen from 145,000 in 1999 to 113,500 in 2005, a 21 percent decline. Over the same period, the number of white drug offenders rose steadily, from 50,000 to more than 72,000, a 42 percent increase. The number of Latino drug offenders was virtually unchanged at about 51,000.

The findings represent a significant shift in the racial makeup of those incarcerated for drugs and could signal a gradual change in the demographics of the nation’s 2 million prison population, which has been disproportionately black for decades. Drug offenders make up about one quarter of the overall prison population.

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