Matt Ford at The Atlantic
writes The Missing Statistics of Criminal Justice
After Ferguson, a noticeable gap in criminal-justice statistics emerged: the use of lethal force by the police. The federal government compiles a wealth of data on homicides, burglaries, and arson, but no official, reliable tabulation of civilian deaths by law enforcement exists. A partial database kept by the FBI is widely considered to be misleading and inaccurate. (The Washington Post has just released a more expansive total of nearly 400 police killings this year.) “It’s ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police last week, last month, last year,” FBI Director James Comey told reportersin April.
This raises an obvious question: If the FBI can’t tell how many people were killed by law enforcement last year, what other kinds of criminal-justice data are missing? Statistics are more than just numbers: They focus the attention of politicians, drive the allocation of resources, and define the public debate. Public officials—from city councilors to police commanders to district attorneys—are often evaluated based on how these numbers change during their terms in office. But existing statistical measures only capture part of the overall picture, and the problems that go unmeasured are often also unaddressed. What changes could the data that isn’t currently collected produce if it were gathered?
In one sense, searching for these statistical gaps is like fishing blindfolded—how can someone know what they don’t know? But some absences are more obvious than others. Bruce Western, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, cited two major gaps. One is the racial demography of arrests and criminal records. An estimated 65 million Americans, or roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population, have a criminal record of some kind. But the racial makeup of those records isn’t fully known. “There are estimates, but with [65 million] people in the FBI criminal record database, we have no systematic knowledge of their demographics,” Western told me. [...]
Without reliable official statistics, scholars often must gather and compile necessary data themselves. “A few years ago, I was struck at how many police killings of civilians we seemed to be having in Philadelphia,” Gottschalk said as an example. “They would be buried in the newspaper, and I was stunned by how difficult it was to compile that information and compare it to New York and do it on a per-capita basis. It wasn’t readily available.” As a result, criminal-justice researchers often spend more time gathering data than analyzing it.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2012—Palm Beach supervisor of elections won't participate in Florida voter purge with bad lists:
Writing at Rolling Stone, Ari Berman says that the Florida Republicans' voting purge is taking voter suppression to a "brazen new extreme." How brazen and extreme is it? Enough to make one county elections supervisor refuse to participate in it.
Think Progress interviewed Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, who has refused to purge the 115 voters the state identified in her county as being non-citizens and ineligible to vote. [...]
Bad lists be damned, the state not only isn't reconsidering the purge, it's going to intensify it. Which could mean tens of thousands of eligible voters purged from the rolls. So far, about 2,700 of the 180,000 plus voters the state has identified as being non-citizens have been challenged, and a very high percentage have been incorrectly identifed. Berman extrapolates from that data:
|The first batch of names was riddled with inaccuracies. For example, as the progressive blog Think Progress noted, "an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as 'non-citizens' in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens. And the actual number may be much higher." If this ratio holds for the rest of the names on the non-citizens list, more than 35,000 eligible voters could be disenfranchised. [...]
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