Washington Post Column Highlights Evidence of Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System

09.19.18 By Innocence Staff

Washington Post Column Highlights Evidence of Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System

Yesterday, journalist Radley Balko published a column in the Washington Post that catalogues and summarizes the empirical evidence of racial bias in the criminal justice system. Balko cites the continued skepticism about the system being racially biased as his impetus for compiling the extensive list of evidence. Although race isn’t the only thing we should be concerned about in the criminal justice system, “the problems tend to be exacerbated when you factor race into the equation,” Balko explains.

Balko’s list is separated into sections, showing how racial bias operates in some form at every stage of the criminal justice system—evidence which he calls “overwhelming.” Some of the categories he includes are policing and profiling, juries and jury selection, the death penalty, prosecutorial discretion and sentencing, to name just a few. And, he even includes a section of studies that do not find racial bias in the system, of which there are far fewer.

Listed below are three studies Balko cites about the connection between race and wrongful convictions:

  • “Black people are also more likely to be wrongly convicted of murder when the victim was white. Only about 15 percent of people killed by black people were white, but 31 percent of black exonorees were wrongly convicted of killing white people. More generally, black people convicted of murder are 50 percent more likely to be innocent than white people convicted of murder.”
  • “Innocent black people are also 5 times more likely than white people to be wrongly convicted of sexual assault and 12 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of drug crimes. (And remember, data on wrongful convictions is limited in that it can only consider the wrongful convictions we know about.)”
  • “According to figures from the National Registry of Exonerations (NER) black people are about five times more likely to go to prison for drug possession than white people. According to exoneration data, black people are also 12 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of drug crimes.”


We encourage you to read Balko’s entire piece, which can be viewed here.

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douglas spratley May 7, 2019 at 6:19 am Reply   

DOJ studies over the past 20 years have shown that blacks were significantly more likely to experience police initiated contact.this is most often cited as evidence of racial profiling.studies also show that a majority(42% on average)of police initiated contact resulted from traffic stops.it occurred to me that there are no studies to reveal what percentage of people could accurately identify race of the occupants of vehicles which came in to their line of sight while stopped or operating their own vehicles.my curiosity made me experiment with my own ability to do this.my ability to do this could not be tested obviously because it was not possible for me to verify weather or not my guesses had been accurate.my father is 38 year veteran retired law enforcement officer.so I thought this could give me an accurate picture of a persons ability to do this from the exact perspective and scenario under which the DOJ statistics were obtained.my dad had not thought abt this particular question but when I posed it to him he took a minute,thought back and said emphatically,most of the time he could not identify the drivers race of vehicles he had stopped in his career until he had already made the stop and walked up to the vehicle.in reading this you might wonder what race my father and I are and if the answer to that question might indicate a bias.my father could possibly have given me a biased answer to my question if it were posed to him by someone he either did or did not want to offend.my father could also have given biased if he was concerned that I would share his answer with anyone whom he either did or did not want to offend.my father and I enjoy the freedom of being honest with each other even when discussing other family members and friends including my mom whom he has been married to for 40 years and loves more than life itself.it is actually very cathartic for each of us to have a sounding board and source to vent without consequences or reprecussions.

Edwin Collazo September 23, 2018 at 10:39 pm Reply   

Our fight to have the justice system reformed is becoming reality and this is why I write the type of poetry you see and read now!
“Presidential Avenue”
A brush of air smites one’s facial scroll
The path that has poetry bestowed reveals dread of an arranged shadow.
Imagine love created to become the paragraph’s window
Over and over an immense purgatory speaks among the mute.
Can you see the Commander’s Palace?
Can you reveal the string of course skin?
The fury of oppressed phrases beyond the reach of the intimate blind,
Man of Power,
The Procession of Flowers.
The beginning of archeological political chords that become the presence of a bondaged conclusion within a cellar of silence.
Enveloped we have become
Too weave our facial fatigue!
1:13 pm

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