Top 8 Most Surprising Facts About Race and The US Criminal Justice

Top 8 Most Surprising Facts About Race and The US Criminal Justice

Suppose we set all politics aside. No agenda. Let’s look at “Just the facts,” as sleuths in old-fashioned mystery shows on television were fond of saying. If we do that–if we seek out empirical evidence and examine it without preconceptions–do we find that the American justice system is biased against people of color?

Top 8 Most Surprising Facts About Race and The US Criminal Justice


Data is recorded at every step of the way through the criminal justice system. Police stops, arrests, bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial outcome, sentencing, prison and parole: all are tracked by gender, age, and yes race, among other demographics.

Here are eight facts revealed by all that data:

1. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 in 3 black men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime. For Latino men the imprisonment rate is 1 in 6, and for White men it’s 1 in 17.

2. Why that difference? The U.S. prison population grew 700% between 1970 and 2005, and in that time span only one new law enforcement initiative was launched: the War on Drugs.

3. How did the War on Drugs send so many brown and black people to prison? It begins with the very first step in the criminal justice system’s process: police stops. For example, about half the population of New York City is made up of people of color, yet 80% (more than three-quarters) of NYPD stops were of African-Americans and Latinos. Only 8% of stopped Whites were frisked, but 85% of people of color were frisked.

4. Continuing to examine the results of the War on Drugs, African-Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population. They make up 14% of monthly drug users. Yet they comprise 37% of people arrested for drug offenses.

5. Once arrested, black defendants are 30% more likely than whites to go to prison.

6. The longer a prison sentence is, the more likely it is that the convict is a person of color. A 2009 Sentencing Project report found a full two-thirds of convicts serving life sentences in the U.S. are people of color.

7. Different treatment begins early. More than 70% of arrested juveniles are African-Americans and Latinos, the Department of Education has found.

8. African-Americans comprise only 16% of the juvenile population, but 37% of arrested underage African-Americans are moved to criminal courts and 58% of convicted black youths are sent to adult prisons.

The facts are clear. America’s justice system is, indeed, prejudiced against people of color. Not so clear, unfortunately, is how we can solve that problem.

The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States| American Progress
14 Shocking Facts That Prove the US Criminal Justice System Is Racist| Opendemocracy
Study: Black Defendants Are At Least 30% More Likely To Be Imprisoned Than White Defendants For The Same Crime| Thinkprogress