Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Race and Punishment"

The Sentencing Project has a new report, Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies. The study shows that whites are more punitive than minorities and tend, in substantial proportion, to associate blacks and Latinos with criminality. Much of this bias traced to misinformation, implicit bias, and slanted media coverage. Regardless of the reason, this bias has translated into overly punitive laws and actually undermines public safety. 

This study is rich with resources and citations to other material, including sharp statistical data,   
Punishment in the United States is both severe and selective. With the world's highest incarceration rate and one in none prisoners serving life sentences . . . Nearly 60% of middle-aged African American men without a high school degree have served time in prison.
Recognizing that the criminal justice system is at a critical juncture, this carefully documented study offers concrete proposals to mitigate racially biased punitive sanctions. One measure gaining traction is "Ban the Box":  "Twelve states and sixty cities and counties now “Ban the Box” in public sector hiring – removing the question about conviction history from the initial job application and delaying background checks until later in the hiring process."

For criminal defense lawyers, a study of mock juries showed that increasing the salience of race, rather than ignoring it, reduced bias in outcomes. 

The study also suggests taking Harvard's Implicit Association Test


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