The Real Reason Proportionally More Blacks Are In Jail?

Proportionally more blacks commit crimes.

Quick, somebody tell Al Sharpton to march against that one — or, better yet, do something to help change it.

And next there’s the claim that judges overcharge and oversentence blacks. Heather MacDonald writes on City Journal:

Obama describes this alleged postarrest treatment as “Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others.” Jena, Louisiana, of course, was where a D.A. initially lodged attempted second-degree murder charges against black students who, in December 2006, slammed a white student’s head against a concrete beam, knocking him unconscious, and then stomped and kicked him in the head while he was down. As Charlotte Allen has brilliantly chronicled in The Weekly Standard, a local civil rights activist crafted a narrative linking the attack to an unrelated incident months earlier, in which three white students hung two nooses from a schoolyard tree–a display that may or may not have been intended as a racial provocation. This entrepreneur then embellished the tale with other alleged instances of redneck racism–above all, the initial attempted-murder charges. An enthusiastic national press responded to the bait exactly as intended, transforming the “Jena Six” into victims rather than perpetrators. In the seven months of ensuing headlines and protests, Jena became a symbol of systemic racial unfairness in America’s court system. If blacks were disproportionately in prison, the refrain went, it was because they faced biased prosecutors–like the one in Jena–as well as biased juries and judges.Backing up this bias claim has been the holy grail of criminology for decades–and the prize remains as elusive as ever. In 1997, criminologists Robert Sampson and Janet Lauritsen reviewed the massive literature on charging and sentencing. They concluded that “large racial differences in criminal offending,” not racism, explained why more blacks were in prison proportionately than whites and for longer terms. A 1987 analysis of Georgia felony convictions, for example, found that blacks frequently received disproportionately lenient punishment. A 1990 study of 11,000 California cases found that slight racial disparities in sentence length resulted from blacks’ prior records and other legally relevant variables. A 1994 Justice Department survey of felony cases from the country’s 75 largest urban areas discovered that blacks actually had a lower chance of prosecution following a felony than whites did and that they were less likely to be found guilty at trial. Following conviction, blacks were more likely to receive prison sentences, however–an outcome that reflected the gravity of their offenses as well as their criminal records.

Another criminologist–easily as liberal as Sampson–reached the same conclusion in 1995: “Racial differences in patterns of offending, not racial bias by police and other officials, are the principal reason that such greater proportions of blacks than whites are arrested, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned,” Michael Tonry wrote in Malign Neglect. (Tonry did go on to impute malign racial motives to drug enforcement, however.) The media’s favorite criminologist, Alfred Blumstein, found in 1993 that blacks were significantly underrepresented in prison for homicide compared with their presence in arrest.

This consensus hasn’t made the slightest dent in the ongoing search for systemic racism. An entire industry in the law schools now dedicates itself to flushing out prosecutorial and judicial bias, using ever more complicated statistical artillery. The net result? A few new studies show tiny, unexplained racial disparities in sentencing, while other analyses continue to find none. Any differences that do show up are trivially small compared with the exponentially greater rates of criminal offending among blacks.

 

Next, MacDonald clears up the racist crack penalties myth. All and all, this is another great piece of debunking by MacDonald.

What does this piece tell us? Well, that the mainstream media are indeed unfair to blacks — but in the wrong direction, pandering to the notion that the justice system is racist, and howling, “Why are so many blacks in arrested or in jail?” instead of asking the black community, “Why are so many blacks doing things that get them arrested or thrown in jail?”

Easier for the Al Sharptons of the world to march on whitey than to start looking for answers and coming up with solutions, then put them into action, in the black community.

Heather MacDonald, like Bill Cosby, asks the right questions:

How many convicts were living in a stable relationship with the mother (or one of the mothers) of their children before being sent upstate? (Forget even asking about their marriage rate.) What kind of positive guidance do men who are committing enough crimes to end up in prison, rather than on probation (an exceedingly high threshold), provide to young people? Further, if Fagan is right that keeping criminals out of prison and on the streets preserves a community’s social capital, inner cities should have thrived during the 1960s and early 1970s, when prison resources contracted sharply. In fact, New York’s poorest neighborhoods–the subject of Fagan’s analysis–turned around only in the 1990s, when the prison population reached its zenith….This popular “social ecological” analysis of incarceration, as Fagan and other criminologists call it, treats prison like an outbreak of infectious disease that takes over certain communities, felling people on a seemingly random basis. “As the risks of going to jail or prison grow over time for persons living in those areas, their prospects for marriage or earning a living and family-sustaining wage diminish as the incarceration rates around them rise,” Fagan says. This analysis elides the role of individual will. Fagan and others assume that once one lives in a high-incarceration–that is, high-crime–area, one can do little to avoid prison. But even in the most frayed urban communities, plenty of people choose to avoid the “Life.” Far from facing diminished marriage prospects, an upstanding, reliable young man in the inner city would be regarded as a valuable catch.

source: http://www.advicegoddess.com/archives/2008/05/11/the_real_reason.html

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