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August 23, 2016

Shared Challenges: Heightened Policing and Harsher Consequences

African-American Virginians and immigrant Virginians face different types of law enforcement contact, but both groups are too often being “policed” rather than “protected,” and members of both communities often face far harsher punishments for the same crimes than U.S. born white Virginians.


African-American Virginians are too often profiled and targeted by police for minor infractions such as simple drug possession. Even as crime rates have dropped sharply in Virginia, arrest rates have only declined slightly and incarceration rates remain high. Drug arrests in Virginia rose 51 percent between 2002 and 2012, and half of drug arrests in Virginia are for simple possession of marijuana. Black Virginians are almost three times more likely than white Virginians to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite the fact that marijuana is used at comparable rates by whites and blacks.

And undocumented immigrant Virginians too often fear that police and sheriffs will report them to federal authorities even when they are the victim or witness to a crime, rather than the suspected perpetrator.

This is the 8th and final post in our series based on our recent report, We’re In This Together: African-American and Immigrant Communities Share Challenges, Policy Solutions. For more information about this report and its findings, please contact Laura Goren at To read previous posts in this series, click on the links below.


Laura Goren

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