CBS News report: At Mayor Buttigieg ‘s 4th of July campaign event in Carroll County Iowa, a man suggest that the Mayor should, “just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crimes.” The crowd booed the man…
Mayor Buttigieg’s immediate response was, “I think that racism is not going to help. The fact that the black person is four times as likely as a white person for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism, [emphasis added] [snip] but racism has no place in American politics or in American law enforcement,”
The man tried to clarify his comment, “No, just stop committing crimes! Has nothing to do with race!” The crowd eventually directed the chant, “shame on you ” toward the man.
I will concede that the man in the audience could have found a better way to approach the nagging FACT, “that blacks remain 3.6 times more likely to be incarcerated in local jails nationally than white people.” (Vera Institute of Justice)
The Mayor’s comment about systemic racism in our Justice System is more than irresponsible. It is factually inaccurate. The Mayor should know that the public deserves a better answer to a complex set of issues.
The Vera Institute Report 2018 (Vera Report) draws attention to the complexity of those issues;
- The Vera Institute of Justice is renowned in the field of American Justice reform. (read more)
- Their involvement in The Bail Reform Act of 1966, was touted by President Johnson as, the most significant reform of the bail system since 1789.”
“The reasons that underlie emerging differences in jail incarceration rates between white and black people are likely a function of the priorities and practices of a particular locale.” [emphasis added] (Vera Report)
Political rhetoric about racism in the justice system does more harm than good. By ignoring legitimate research facts, Policy makers and reformers are left with no other choice but to chase fallacies and enact bad policy.
Vera finds that; “Despite persistently higher rates of incarceration when compared to rates for white people, black jail incarceration rates have fallen [emphasis added] significantly since the nationwide peak in 2005, including declines in nearly all regions and types of geographies along the urban-rural axis. In contrast, white jail incarceration rates have steadily grown [emphasis added] across all regions and jurisdiction types since 1990.”
“Also, The root causes of these diverging jail trends are not yet clear. To prompt discussion and further action, this report proposes a remedy to fill current gaps in knowledge: deliberate collection of race and ethnicity data related to jail incarceration — much of which is presently non-existent. Such information will be crucial in understanding why recent jail population patterns are occurring in an era of widespread criminal justice reform. To begin exploring the reasons behind recent trends, this report suggests a few questions to consider.” [emphasis added]
The Vera Institute’s report has one very distinct message, up until now most of the data collection has either been non-existent or poorly collected and collated. The empirical studies have drawn an improper image of what is happening in our justice system. “Thus, policy reform efforts have focused primarily on understanding and remediating disproportionate racial or ethnic representation at the bookends of the criminal justice process — arrest and sentencing.” [emphasis added]
The Vera Report shows that more comprehensive data sets and better collation of all data is necessary to truly understand and properly portray the jail incarceration pathway.
Because of Vera’s involvement in improving data collection, a new picture of the American jail incarceration pathway is emerging.
We now recognize that this pathway, “is the product of a complex web of highly discretionary decisions [emphasis added] made within a connected, but not always synchronized, local justice system. This includes many different autonomous system actors, all of whom exercise varying degrees of influence [emphasis added] over who ends up in jail and for how long; and who act according to different incentives and answer to different constituencies.”
- law enforcement officers who choose to arrest, release, or book people into jail
- prosecutors who determine what charges to pursue or decline; whom to divert from prosecution; and the content of plea bargains they decide to offer
- judicial officers, including magistrates or bail commissioners, who decide to detain or release people pretrial, and under what conditions;
- court actors whose action or inaction can determine how long a person’s case lasts and, if that person is in custody pending case resolution, how long a person may languish in jail
- judges who can sentence someone to serve time in a local jail instead of in a state prison or in the community;
- probation and parole officers who decide whether to process people through local jails as part of sanctioning someone for not following supervision conditions.”
I realize that campaign stops are short and sweet. Not much time to dig deep into the meat of issues…but to reflexively say that systemic racism is the cause of the disparity in incarceration rates, when research proves otherwise is unacceptable from a Presidential candidate.
OHB…keeping it real… making it easier for you to find the facts so you can draw your own conclusions…..
“There are things public officials would never do if they thought somebody might call them out on it.”