The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported today that the Ramsey County District Court has completed a study of bail decisions, which concluded that race was not a factor. This is not a surprise; it is consistent with data collected several years ago on Hennepin County (where Minneapolis is located), which the Trunk and I have analyzed and written about.
The conclusion of the Pioneer Press article, however, reads like a parody:
“The study found the current evaluation fair to all races. Still, Mott said, judges and court personnel will continue seeking reasons behind the high number of minorities in Minnesota prisons in comparison with the state’s minority population as a whole. For example, African-Americans make up 36 percent of the state’s prison population, but just 3.5 percent of the state’s population, according to the 2000 census.
“‘A 20-year-old African-American male isn’t going to have the 15 years on the job like a 50-year-old white male,’ Mott said. ‘But would a 50-year-old black male have 15 years on the job? Maybe. Then the question is, ultimately, is there bias and discrimination outside the court?’
“Hankes said recent statistics found that 56 percent of people booked into the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center were people of color. The county’s minority population is 25 percent. That disparity, he said, is a mystery studies have yet to solve.
“‘Everybody (conducting the study) is well meaning here, but then you still have that number that makes you go, ‘Wait a minute,” Hankes said. ‘The number lays out there; it’s in your face.'”
I love that phrase: “a mystery studies have yet to solve.” What that means, I guess, is that studies have failed to find any evidence of racism in Minnesota’s criminal justice system. Absent such evidence, the remarkable number of black men in the state’s prisons can only be considered a “mystery.” Well, here’s a clue: those people are in jail because they committed crimes. Nationwide, the black murder rate is about seven times the white rate. A couple of years ago, a study was done of crime reports in Hennepin County, which found that in more than 60% of the Category 1 crimes (murder, rape, aggravated assault, etc.), where the victim was able to describe the perpetrator, the perpetrator was black. Which is pretty conclusive evidence that in Minnesota, as in every other state I know of, blacks are “over-represented” in prisons because they commit an amazing number of crimes. I frankly find it a little hard to believe that the Pioneer Press’s reporter, and the individuals she quotes as they scratch their heads over the “mystery,” haven’t noticed this basic fact.
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