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Trayvon Martin gets chased down and shot for the crime of walking down the street in a hoodie while black, and authorities don't even see fit to charge the shooter. Previously, in nearby Jacksonville, a black woman, having been attacked by her husband, under threat of death, fired a warning shot that hit nobody. She just got 20 years for aggravated assault.

Blacks are 14% of America's population, and 40% of the prison population.

Our criminal justice system is systemically racist nation wide. And this isn't based on anecdotal evidence.


For the areas, agencies, and time periods that
were studied, the following disparities were found:

Youth of color in the juvenile justice system face harsher
sentencing outcomes than similarly situated white youth, as
well as disparate treatment by probation officers.

Defendants of color were significantly less likely than
similarly situated white defendants to receive sentences that
fell below the standard range.

Among felony drug offenders, black defendants were 62%
more likely to be sentenced to prison than similarly situated
white defendants.

With regard to legal financial obligations, similarly situated
Latino defendants receive significantly greater legal financial
obligations than their white counterparts.

Disparate treatment exists in the context of pretrial release
decisions, which systematically disfavors minority

In Seattle, the black arrest rate for delivery of a drug other
than marijuana is twenty-one times higher than the white
arrest rate for that offense, one of the highest levels of
disparity found across the country. Research suggests that
this disparity does not primarily reflect different levels of
involvement with illicit drugs.

Minority drivers are more likely to be searched by the
Washington State Patrol than white motorists, although the
rate at which searches result in seizures is highest for

In all of these areas, facially neutral policies result in disparate treatment of minorities over time.

Implicit and explicit racial bias also contributes to this disproportionality by influencing decision-making within the criminal justice system. Race and racial stereotypes play a role in the judgments and decision-making of human actors within the criminal justice system. The influence of such bias is subtle and often undetectable in any given
case, but its effects are significant, cumulative, and observable over

When policymakers determine policy, when official actors exercise discretion, and when citizens proffer testimony or jury service, bias often plays a role.

To summarize:
We find the assertion that the overrepresentation of black
people in the Washington State prison system is due solely to
differential crime commission rates inaccurate.

We find that facially race-neutral policies that have a
disparate impact on people of color contribute significantly to
disparities in the criminal justice system.

We find that racial and ethnic bias distorts decision-making at
various stages in the criminal justice system, contributing to

We find that race and racial bias matter in ways that are not
fair, that do not advance legitimate public safety objectives,
that produce disparities in the criminal justice system, and
that undermine public confidence in our legal system.

If it is happening in Washington State, it is happening everywhere. I have nothing more to add.

Originally posted to Sarge in Seattle on Fri May 11, 2012 at 05:47 PM PDT.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges.

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