The three major race groups in America include Whites, Blacks and Hispanics. According to the US Census Bureau, Whites account for 77.1% of the population, Blacks 13.3% and Hispanics 17.6%. One would think that prison demographics would somewhat similar to this. Wrong! From a report from The Sentencing Project, more than 60% of the people in prison today are people of color. Black men are nearly six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Hispanic men are 2.3 times as likely. What’s the reason behind this? Maybe minorities just commit more crimes…
Roger Clegg tends to agree with this. In an editorial he wrote in the National Review, Clegg argues that there are more minorities in jail not because the Government is targeting them, but simply because they tend to commit more crimes. “If a disproportionate number of those arrested for drug crimes are black, it is because a disproportionate number of drug criminals are black. It is not true that all groups use illegal drugs at the same rate, and in any event it is not for using drugs but for selling them that people are typically sent to prison.”
Later in the article, Clegg suggest that if you belong to a racial or ethnic group that you think is targeted by the police, then especially do not use, buy, or sell illegal drugs. Ironically enough, Clegg serves as the president and general counsel for Center of Equal Opportunity.
Roger Clegg’s argument above can best be summed up as “alternative facts”. The major flaw in Clegg’s argument is that it fails to account for the many racial disparities when it comes to incarceration in America.
In an article found in the Huffington Post, author Kim Farbota list the three reasons why Blacks are more highly represented in the prison population. Unlike Clegg, Farbota claims are supported by proven statistics.
- If a black person and a white person each commit a crime, the black person is more likely to be arrested. This is due in part to the fact that black people are more heavily policed.
- When black people are arrested for a crime, they are convicted more often than white people arrested for the same crime.
- When black people are convicted of a crime, they are more likely to be sentenced to incarceration compared to whites convicted of the same crime.
So how can we close this racial incarceration gap? Quite frankly I’m not sure how or if it’ll ever happen, but I am positive that this gap will not close unless there is a major reform in the criminal-justice system.