There already are excellent, thorough studies which show this, but this is more confirmation. Time and space constraints allow for only a few of the highlights here, but if this is of interest to you open the article and check it out!
Radley Balko does great work.
Excerpts from the Article:
A couple of years ago, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gave a powerful speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Scott talked about how he had been repeatedly pulled over by police officers who seemed to be suspicious of a black man driving a nice car. He added that a black senior-level staffer had experienced the same thing and had even downgraded his car in the hope of avoiding the problem. Given that Scott otherwise has pretty conservative politics, there was little objection or protest from the right. No one rose up to say that he was lying about getting pulled over.
The thing is, most people of color have a similar story or know someone who does. Yet, there’s a deep skepticism on the right of any assertion that the criminal-justice system is racially biased. In early August, National Review editor and syndicated columnist Rich Lowry wrote a column disputing the notion that our system is racist. Andrew Sullivan wrote something similar in New York magazine. (Interestingly, both Lowry and Sullivan cite criminologist John Pfaff to support their positions. Pfaff has since protested on Twitter that both misinterpreted what he wrote.) And attempting to refute the notion that the system is racist has become a pretty regular beat for conservative crime pundit Heather Mac Donald.
Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.
In any case, after more than a decade covering these issues, it’s pretty clear to me that the evidence of racial bias in our criminal-justice system isn’t just convincing — it’s overwhelming. But because there still seems to be some skepticism, I’ve attempted below to catalog the evidence. The list below isn’t remotely comprehensive. And if you know of other studies, please send them to me. I would like to make this post a repository for this issue.
But the problem with trying to dismiss profiling concerns by noting that higher rates at which some minority groups commit certain crimes is that it overlooks the fact that huge percentages of black and Latino people have been pulled over, stopped on the street and generally harassed despite the fact that they have done nothing wrong. Stop and frisk data, for example, consistently show that about 3 percent of these encounters produce any evidence of a crime. So 97 percent-plus of these people are getting punished solely because they belong to a group that statistically commits some crimes at a higher rate. That ought to bother us.
A 2013 Justice Department study found that black and Latino drivers are more likely to be searched once they have been pulled over. About 2 percent of white motorists were searched, vs. 6 percent of black drivers and 7 percent of Latinos.
A 2017 study of 4.5 million traffic stops by the 100 largest police departments in North Carolina found that blacks and Latinos were more likely to be searched than whites (5.4 percent, 4.1 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively), even though searches of white motorists were more likely than the others to turn up contraband (whites: 32 percent, blacks: 29 percent, Latinos: 19 percent).
According to the Justice Department, between 2012 and 2014, black people in Ferguson, Mo., accounted for 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of citations and 93 percent of arrests, despite comprising 67 percent of the population. Blacks were more than twice as likely as whites to be searched after traffic stops, even though they proved to be 26 percent less likely to be in possession of illegal drugs or weapons. Between 2011 and 2013, blacks also received 95 percent of jaywalking tickets and 94 percent of tickets for “failure to comply.” The Justice Department also found that the racial discrepancy for speeding tickets increased dramatically when researchers looked at tickets based on only an officer’s word vs. tickets based on objective evidence, such as vs. radar. Black people facing similar low-level charges as white people were 68 percent less likely to see those charges dismissed in court. More than 90 percent of the arrest warrants stemming from failure to pay/failure to appear were issued for black people.
A 2013 study by the ACLU found that black people were 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. And 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for possession. (The disparity is actually lowest in the West and South, and highest in the Northeast and Midwest.) The study found that the racial disparities were also getting larger, not smaller.
In contrast to the assertion that blacks are more likely to be arrested because they’re more likely to use drugs in public, a 2002 study of narcotics search warrants in the San Diego area — that is, warrants to search for drugs in private homes — found that black and Hispanic residents were “significantly over-represented as targets of narcotics search warrants,” even after adjusting for usage rates. The study also found that “searches of White suspects were more successful in recovering the targeted drug than were searches of either Black or Hispanic suspects.”
According to figures from the National Registry of Exonerations (NER) black people are about five times more likely to go to prison for drug possession than white people. According to exoneration data, black people are also 12 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of drug crimes.
When Harris County, Tex., saw a flaw in how drug testing was conducted at its crime lab, officials went back and exonerated dozens of people who had been wrongly convicted for possession — most pleaded guilty, despite their innocence. This is because prosecutors often promise harsher sentences or more charges for defendants who take a case to trial. Black people comprise 20 percent of the Harris County population but made up 62 percent of the wrongful drug convictions.
Not included in these wrongful conviction figures are cases in which police and narcotics task forces conducted mass arrests of entire black or Latino neighborhoods or towns. Hundreds of people were persuaded to plead guilty to drug charges. By the NER’s estimate, there have been more than 1,800 such “group exonerations” in 15 cities since 1989. Almost all those exonerated were black or Latino.
An analysis of drug war data by the Vera Institute of Justice published this year found that “the risk of incarceration in the federal system for someone who uses drugs monthly and is black is more than seven times that of his or her white counterpart.”
A 2017 report of civil asset forfeiture seizures in Chicago showed that the vast majority of such actions were in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. The average value of the property seized was $4,553; the median value was $1,049.
There are no comprehensive national data on the rate at which prosecutors strike black jurors, but there have been quite a few regional studies.
A study of criminal cases from 1983 and 1993 found that prosecutors in Philadelphia removed 52 percent of potential black jurors vs. only 23 percent of nonblack jurors.
While white people make up less than half of the country’s murder victims, a 2003 study by Amnesty International found that about 80 percent of the people on death row in the United States killed a white person.
A 2012 study of Harris County, Tex., cases found that people who killed white victims were 2.5 times more likely to be sentenced to the death penalty than other killers.
In Delaware, according to a 2012 study, “black defendants who kill white victims are seven times as likely to receive the death penalty as are black defendants who kill black victims. … Moreover, black defendants who kill white victims are more than three times as likely to be sentenced to death as are white defendants who kill white victims.”
A 2000 study of federal cases found that federal prosecutors were about 50 percent more likely to offer a plea bargain to white murder suspects than black suspects that allowed them to avoid the death penalty.
Depending on which study you look at, somewhere between 80 and 95 percent of criminal cases are resolved with a plea bargain before ever getting to trial. While most legal observers agree that plea bargaining is widely abused and does little to serve the interests of justice, most also believe believe that if every defendant were to insist on a trial, the system would come grinding to a halt. The bias here comes in when we look at who gets plea bargains, what kinds of deals they’re offered and how many, though innocent, feel pressured to accept.
A 2015 study by the Women Donors Network found that in three-fifths of the states where prosecutors are elected, there isn’t a single black prosecutor. Overall, the study found that in the United States, 95 percent of elected prosecutors are white, and nearly 80 percent are white men. In nine death penalty states (Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming), all of the elected district attorneys were white in 2015.
A 2017 study of about 48,000 criminal cases in Wisconsin showed that white defendants were 25 percent more likely than black defendants to have their most serious charge dismissed in a plea bargain. Among defendants facing misdemeanor charges that could carry a sentence of incarceration, whites were 75 percent more likely to have those charges dropped, dismissed or reduced to a charge that did not include such a punishment.
Data from the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission released in 2016 found that black people in the state are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than white people. Hispanic people were about five times more likely.
In 2016, the New York Times reported a working paper (i.e., not peer-reviewed) by Harvard’s Roland G. Fryer Jr. found that though there was evidence of racial bias in how and when police generally use force, there was no evidence of bias when it came to police shootings. Fryer later criticized the way his study had been reported, and critics (including me) pointed out several limitations to his study.