29 July 2003

Is the justice system stacked against black men?

KTAR morning host David Leibowitz posed the question in response to the dreadful citation contained within an article announcing a 2.6% rise in the U.S. prison population.
At the end of 2002, there were 2,166,260 Americans in local jails, state and federal prisons and juvenile detention facilities, the report found.

Another important finding was that 10.4 percent of black men ages 25 to 29, or 442,300 people, were in prison last year. By comparison, 2.4 percent of Hispanic men and 1.2 percent of white men in the same age group were in prison.

Of course it is. Just look at the disparity in sentencing between white powder cocaine cases and crack possession penalties. It's not an issue of race, though. It's a socioeconomic issue - those on the lower economic ladder rungs experience the full brunt of the prosecutor's wrath while the privileged skate away from jail sentences. Money grants the aid of competent and effective law resources. Poverty ensures that the defendant will have a court appointed attorney, and the liklihood that he will have to cop a plea even if he's innocent of the charge multiplies. Also, those unfortunate enough to inhabit "high crime" neighborhoods are subjected to more vigorous scrutiny, attention for daily activities that would go unheeded in plusher locales.