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Oh good. A white guy. Throw the book at him.

by Greg Krehbiel on 8 May 2017

Imagine you’re a judge. It’s your job to set bail, or impose fines or jail time.

Imagine your bailiwick is (like many cities) sharply divided by race. Blacks live in the high crime areas while whites live in relatively law-abiding areas.

You try your absolute best to be fair, but the fact of the matter is that the black defendants that come before you are accused of more serious crimes and have longer rap sheets than the white defendants. It’s different in other places, but that’s the way it is in the area you cover.

Consequently, you end up imposing harsher bail, fines and jail time on blacks than you do on whites.

Then some civil rights activist starts an initiative to measure all the judges in the state by the numbers. E.g., what is the average penalty imposed on defendants by race?

Tell me this won’t tempt you to bump up the punishments you impose on the white guys, just to make your numbers look better.

2017-05-08  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 6

  1. William
    8 May 2017 @ 3:19 pm

    QUOTE: Tell me this won’t tempt you to bump up the punishments you impose on the white guys, just to make your numbers look better

    This temptation must not be very strong because research doesn’t seem to support this as a common practice. According to data, there is a disparity in arrests and prosecution rates between whites and blacks but it’s whites that tend to fare more favorably.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/06/04/the-blackwhite-marijuana-arrest-gap-in-nine-charts/?utm_term=.f4c6b732a06d

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1985377

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324432004578304463789858002

  2. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    8 May 2017 @ 3:39 pm

    I can’t read the second and third articles, but the first one illustrates the problem with these sort of “crime by race” statistics. For example, are marijuana arrests different by geography, and only secondarily by race?

    The idea that rolled up statistics like that indicate anything at all is a big part of the problem with our alleged “conversation about race.”

  3. William
    8 May 2017 @ 3:50 pm

    I’d suggest you take a closer look at current data on the subject and then determine if your statement still holds…”Tell me this won’t tempt you to bump up the punishments you impose on the white guys, just to make your numbers look better”

  4. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    8 May 2017 @ 4:02 pm

    The point of my argument is that the situation creates a temptation to twist things in a certain direction. There’s no way that the statistics of actual sentencing could confirm or deny that. Short of reading people’s minds, there’s no way to confirm or deny it. All I’m saying is that it clearly creates a temptation.

  5. Robin R.
    8 May 2017 @ 6:59 pm

    Safe hypothesis.

  6. William
    9 May 2017 @ 12:51 am

    @ Greg, yes, your situation could hypothetically create temptation. Yet, you’ve provided no evidence that this temptation has been acted upon in the manner you stated nor is a common practice. As well, current research seems to indicate that a different dynamic is more likely than the one you intimated.

    That said, we can speculate about anything (e.g., to increase the odds of winning the election, Trump officials colluded with Russians). Clearly, it’s theoretically possible. Yet, without evidence, such a speculation is merely musing and isn’t necessarily credible.