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No, the Criminal-Justice System Isn’t Racist

Riley is incapable of writing a bad article.

BTW, 54% of murders in the US are committed by blacks which represent only 12% of our population. Appprox twice as many unarmed whites are killed by police each year as blacks. A black suspect statisitcally has a better chance of being shot in an encounter with a Black or Hispanic cop than a white one.

Then again, don't let the facts influence your opinion on this.

Source FBI database.

No, the Criminal-Justice System Isn’t Racist

Another academic paper finds scant support for the theory that bias causes incarceration disparities.

By Jason L. Riley. WSJ

Jan. 2, 2024 6:34 pm ET

The notion that the U.S. criminal-justice system is stacked against black people has gained currency since the death of George Floyd. It’s often cited as a basis for everything from ending cash bail and closing prisons to legalizing drugs, decriminalizing petty theft and offering reparations to the descendants of slaves. But is it supported by the evidence?

Not according to a new academic paper by two Stetson University sociologists, Christopher Ferguson and Sven Smith. After analyzing 51 studies on sentencing disparities that were published between 2005 and 2022, they conclude that “overrepresentation among perpetrators of crime explains incarceration disparities to a greater degree than does racism in the criminal justice system.” In other words, blacks are incarcerated at higher rates than other groups because they commit crimes at higher rates, not due to systemic bias.

Some of the studies found that “race had little clear impact on criminal adjudication,” while others found that “Black defendants receive more lenient sentences than Whites.” Tellingly, the authors note that “better quality studies were less likely to produce results supportive of disparities,” which raises the possibility that conventional wisdom about race and criminal justice is not only misguided but also drawing on sloppy research.

“Our results suggest that for most crimes, criminal adjudication in the U.S. is not substantially biased on race or class lines,” the researchers write. “For drug crimes there appear to be very small race differences, though confidence in these effects is reduced somewhat due to the quality of many of the studies involved.” These findings, they stress, do not mean “there is not potential for bias in other areas such as police treatment, arrests, or other outcomes,” but “Overall, perceptions of bias in US criminal adjudications do not seem proportionate to the available evidence.”

Some will be eager to dismiss the paper, but it isn’t an outlier. In 2016 Harvard economist Roland Fryer published research on policing that also countered the preferred narrative of social-justice advocates. Mr. Fryer found no evidence of racial bias in fatal police shootings, which he told the New York Times had surprised him. He did find large racial differences in police use of nonlethal force—grabbing and shoving suspects, for example—but concluded: “It is plausible that racial differences in lower level uses of force are simply a distraction and movements such as Black Lives Matter should seek solutions within their own communities rather than changing the behaviors of police and other external forces.”

In 2019 psychologists Joseph Cesario of Michigan State and David Johnson of the University of Maryland published findings that were similar to Mr. Fryer’s. After controlling for race-specific violent-crime rates, they found “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by police.” Mr. Fryer has stood by his work, despite considerable blowback, but following the death of George Floyd in 2020, Messrs. Cesario and Johnson retracted their paper.

All the empirical evidence under the sun might not stand a chance against a viral video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd, but Messrs. Ferguson and Smith deserve credit for following the facts where they lead and reporting the politically incorrect findings. Academic integrity and courage seem to be in short supply these days, and the paper performs a public service for people who put hard data above political spin.

The authors suggest that policy makers focus on poverty to address these racial imbalances. It’s true that the poor are more likely to engage in violent crime, and that blacks are more likely to be poor. But it’s also true that black violent crime rates were significantly lower in the 1940s and ’50s, when the black population was significantly poorer than it is today, and when racism inside (and outside) the criminal-justice system was rampant and overt.

One difference between then and now is the rate of absent fathers in black communities. Our jails and prisons aren’t teeming with people from intact families. Yet the disintegration of the nuclear family and other cultural problems in low-income neighborhoods where violent crime is common is a topic that few people in academia, politics or the media wish to tackle.

“At present, we believe that the evidence on racial bias in criminal justice adjudication has been poorly communicated to the general public and policymakers,” Messrs. Ferguson and Smith write. “In many cases, it appears that data calling into question beliefs in structural racism in the criminal justice system are simply being ignored, both by scholars in the field and by policy makers.”

Blaming black outcomes on the criminal justice system will do little to help the black underclass, but it helps activists raise money, and it helps politicians secure votes. Don’t expect it to stop anytime soon.

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