California’s Proposition 47 reduced certain drug-possession felonies to misdemeanors and raised the threshold for felony theft and check forging from $450 to $950. Since the changes took effect, the gap in sentence lengths between black and white citizens dropped by half in San Francisco.
Outgoing Gov. Chris Christie signed a law requiring that changes to criminal-justice laws in New Jersey include an analysis of their impact on racial and ethnic minorities. The state has the nation’s largest disparity between black and white incarceration rates.
For at least a century, heroin has been a problem drug for African Americans in Chicago. But the Chicago Urban League says blacks are being written out of an opioid narrative that focuses on white users in rural and suburban areas.
An Oregon State University professor says his comparative study of prison demographics also supports critics who claim private prisons “skim the best inmates with the lowest needs in their attempt to minimize costs.” The study found that inmates in for-profit institutions serve disproportionately shorter sentences than those incarcerated in state and federal prisons.
Blacks are 17 percent of Florida’s population but have accounted for 46 percent of the state’s felony drug convictions since 2004. Blacks spend two-thirds more time behind bars for drug crimes, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.
African Americans got 55 percent of all tickets issued for pedestrian violations in Jacksonville over the past five years. Nearly all such tickets were written in the city’s poorest sections. “There is not an active effort to be in black neighborhoods writing pedestrian tickets,” says the local sheriff.
African-American male offenders receive sentences averaging 19.1 percent longer than white males—a gap that has largely remained unchanged since the U.S. Sentencing Commission began studying the issue in 2010.
A pro-death penalty “punitive culture” in some federal jurisdictions ensures that poor defendants in capital punishment cases never get the quality of public defense they are entitled to, argues a study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. The authors say their findings help explain the stark racial disparities in the application of death sentences across the U.S.