Gerald (Jerry) Zezas

Home » Morality » Blacks Don’t Commit More Crimes. They Just Get Arrested For Them More

Blacks Don’t Commit More Crimes. They Just Get Arrested For Them More

I’m writing this piece for my book about racism and decided to post it on my blog before including it in the book. It is for those who, when discussing police discrimination or the incarceration level of blacks in an effort to justify it, cite meaningless statistics that they heard on television or read in some poorly disguised racist publication. Those statistics include the disproportionate percentage of blacks in our jails. Those statistics are usually used to suggest that blacks commit a disproportionate amount of crimes. To those too poorly informed or with so little concern for the truth as to repeat the first thing that comports with their racist view of life, this makes perfect sense and allows them to go back into their intellectual worm holes, double lock their doors lest a black person show up in the neighborhood, and reassure themselves that all would be well if only black people would act like white people.

For those who consider themselves to be concerned with facts, irrespective of whether those facts are agreeable, I present the following. I cite nothing but original sources. No blog posts or “articles” written by those who agree with my positions. All sources are listed and represent actual studies, not articles about studies or opinions about studies. Sources, for those who have no facts, are easy to impeach. My sources in some cases may appear to those with axes to grind to be biased, yet these organizations have a long history of protecting many Americans from racial and legal injustice. I would caution those who assume bias on the part of these agencies to try to find better, more robustly and judiciously garnered information anywhere.

More than 90 percent of all criminal cases never go to trial. The defendant pleads guilty, often after the prosecutor and defense attorney negotiate. A 1990 study of about 1,000 cases by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, a Federal Agency, found that whites did better in plea bargains. 25% percent of whites compared to 13% of blacks got their sentences reduced through bargaining.

The San Jose Mercury News conducted a massive study of 700,000 California legal cases over a 10-year period. The paper reported in December 1991 that a third of the white adults who were arrested, but had no prior record, were able to get felony charges against them reduced. Only a quarter of the African-Americans and with no prior records were as successful in plea bargaining.

The Mercury News study did not blame intentional racism for these inequalities. It did, however, suggest that subtle cultural fears and insensitivity contributed to the problem. The study noted that more than 80 percent of all California prosecutors and judges are white, while more than 60 percent of those arrested are non-white.

Drug Sentencing Disparities

About 14 million Whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug, 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.

African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.

African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).

In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic.

Jail reduces work time of young people over the next decade by 25-30 percent when compared with arrested youths who were not incarcerated. The manifestation of this is the fact that many more blacks start off life with criminal records that reduce their chances of finding gainful employment, as well as less experience in the workforce than their white counterparts who were arrested and released. This perpetuates recidivism by giving these incarcerated blacks fewer employment options, making crime sometimes their only source of income.

The Brookings Institute, a well respected non-partisan public policy organization which often reports directly to Congress, did a study in 2011 in which they found arrest data showing a striking trend: arrests of blacks have fallen for violent and property crimes, but soared for drug-related crimes. As of 2011, drug crimes comprised 14 percent of all arrests and a miscellaneous category that includes “drug paraphernalia” possession comprised an additional 31 percent of all arrests. Just 6 percent and 14 percent of arrests were for violent and property crimes, respectively. Blacks aren’t showing a propensity for violent and property crimes as many whites assume. They are just being arrested for drug crimes more often than whites.

Even more surprising is what gets left out of that statistic: Blacks are far more likely to be arrested for selling or possessing drugs than whites, even though whites use drugs at the same rate. And whites are actually more likely to sell drugs:

Whites were about 45 percent more likely than blacks to sell drugs in 1980, according to an analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth by economist Robert Fairlie. This was consistent with a 1989 survey of youth in Boston. My own analysis of data from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 6.6 percent of white adolescents and young adults (aged 12 to 25) sold drugs, compared to just 5.0 percent of blacks (a 32 percent difference).

The Sentencing Project, a report prepared for the Senate Judiciary Committee on Crime and Drugs cites the following:

The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses. According to the Human Rights Watch, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but they have higher rate of arrests. African Americans comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. From 1980 to 2007 about one in three of the 25.4 million adults arrested for drugs was African American.

Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison.

I researched and wrote this post in an effort, however futile, to inform and educate some of my readers regarding the lack of verisimilitude in most of the arguments they make regarding blacks and the reasons for their excessive incarceration rates. For those who are willing to suffer the uncomfortable notion that their inherent racism or fear of those not like them leads them to incorrect conclusions, this post should cause you to at least do some research on your own to determine if your long-held racist belief could, just possibly, be incorrect. Whatever your ultimate conclusion, it will likely make you a better person to have at least tried.

When doing so, look for original material, written by those who have nothing to sell. Any organization’s website with links to political articles or enticements to Buy Gold Today are likely not good candidates. Scholarly articles never, ever, have any form of advertising or links to other articles or opinion pieces. They stand on their own. Anything else is not scholarly research and is likely biased in one direction or the other.


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