A coalition of national professional organizations for African-Americans plans to promote education and prevention to combat drug abuse in the black community, while lobbying judges and lawmakers to give nonviolent drug offenders treatment instead of jail time.
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The newly formed National African American Drug Policy Coalition is advocating that the nation’s policymakers and community leaders take a “public health” approach to drug abuse.
“It makes more sense to engage in long-term treatment, rather than warehousing people in jail, where we are in fact not curing the problem but having temporary stops or suspensions,” said Arthur L. Burnett Sr., a senior judge for the District of Columbia Superior Court, who is on leave to serve as the coalition’s national executive director.
On the education front, the coalition will launch an ambitious mentoring program to pair up black high school and middle school students with mentors who would follow them through the completion of their college education.
Judge Burnett said the mentoring program, which is based on a similar effort he initiated for Washington teenagers, would provide students who earn B averages with a “surrogate parent” who would adopt them professionally for up to 10 years.
The Washington-based group, which was formed earlier this year, will seek nonprofit status in the coming months and hopes to secure federal and private funding.
Seven cities will serve as pilot sites for the coalition’s efforts next spring; local collaboratives of lawyers, judges, police officers, health-care professionals, and educators will shape and lead the programs. The cities are Baltimore; Chicago; Flint, Mich.; Huntsville, Ala.; Seattle; Washington; and a yet-to-be-named city in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The groups participating in the coalition are: the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; the Howard University School of Law; the National Association of Black Psychologists; the National Association of Black Social Workers; the National Association of Black Sociologists; the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice; the National Bar Association; the National Black Alcoholism & Addictions Council; the National Black Caucus of State Legislators; the National Black Nurses Association; the National Dental Association; the National Medical Association; and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.