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General News    H2'ed 7/27/10

Fourteen Examples of Systemic Racism in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

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Message Bill Quigley
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The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.

Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.

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The question is are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?

Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.

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One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.

Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.

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Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.
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