By Dominick J. Fils-Aimé | 12:10PM, March 9th, 2017
Dear…well some of use…when speaking with people of color about criminal justice, it is important to understand that by in large, the African-American community has little to no faith in the justice system. So when some argue that we must wait for the facts to come out, or act as if a criminal conviction is ultimate, it is important to understand that in our communities, we believe the justice system has failed us. Why? Because deficiencies in our nations criminal justice system disproportionately affect African-American’s.
Ultimately, the racial biases associated with policing and corrections are best illustrated in the racial disparities concerned with wrongful convictions, as African-American’s are significantly more likely to be exonerated for murder, sexual, assault and drug offenses than their white counterparts. According to a report by the National Registry of Exoneration, black people represent an astounding 47 percent of the 1,900 exonerations on their registry, despite making up only 13 percent of the population.
According to the report, which was a collaborative effort between the University of California, Irvine, University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law, African Americans are nearly seven times more likely to be convicted for a crime they did not commit than innocent white people. Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan and a senior editor of the report, noted that implicit racism and the high homicide rates associated with people of color both influence these numbers. In short, because African-American’s are disproportionately represented in homicide rates, they are more likely to be suspected, arrested and convicted of murder.
“A major cause of the high number of black murder exonerations is the high homicide rate in the black community — a tragedy that kills many African Americans and sends many others to prison,” says the report, “Innocent defendants who are falsely convicted and exonerated do not contribute to this high homicide rate. They — like the families of victims who are killed — are deeply harmed by murders committed by others.”
Others who are not incarcerated for their actions and have free reign to continue inflicting trauma upon their communities.
Additionally, the report suggest that black inmates are nearly four times more likely to be innocent of sexual assault crimes than white defendants. The study suggest that this disparity is influenced by white victims mistakenly identifying black assailants. A phenomenon known as “own race bias” which illustrates the deficiencies in cross-racial identification. In short, the theory suggest that it is more difficult for a white person to identify an assailant of a different race than their own, and vice versa.
My favorite statistic when analyzing institutionalized racial bias within our justice system is concerned with drug offenses, as the majority of individuals in our prison system are in their due to drug violations. Despite whites and blacks recording similar rates of illegal drug use, innocent blacks were a whopping twelve times more likely to be convicted of drug crimes than innocent whites.
Although it can be argued that these numbers are greatly influenced by the disproportionate amount of crime committed by people of color, other’s might argue that you might find more crimes committed in neighborhoods that don’t have as significant a police presence. So what came first, the crime or the police? Police didn’t truly come to occupy our communities until they had to enforce segregation right? And than President Linden B. Johnson left them their after the Civil Rights Movement for fear of the emergence of a criminal aspect rising from said movement, correct? The boom in mass incarceration began during Nixon’s drug wars right? But a member of his administration declared that the drug war targeted people of color, with precision. If your in prison, you can’t vote, if you can’t vote, you can’t get that republican out of office right?