Events in Ferguson, Missouri raise this question: Is the criminal justice system unfair to minorities, especially blacks? Liberal blogger Ezra Klein says it is. And libertarian Rand Paul agrees. Klein serves up these statistics:
· Of people impacted by a SWAT deployment, at least 54 percent were minorities.
· White and black people are similarly likely to use drugs, but black people are 3.6 times likelier to be arrested for drug use than white people.
· Until 2010, triggering the mandatory 5-year sentence for cocaine, which is used more often in the white community, required possession of 100 times as much of the drug as for crack, which is used more heavily in the black community. After the 2010 reforms, the disparity was brought down to a (still huge) 18:1.
· Prison sentences for black men tend to be almost 20 percent longer than prison sentences for white men who commit similar crimes.
· The result is that more than 60 percent of the people in prison are minorities. Among black males in their 30s, more than one in 10 is in prison on any given day.
Neither Klein nor Paul are saying that judges are racists. Or legislators. Or even cops on the beat. What they are saying is that the system has a disparate impact on blacks.
But what Paul surely realizes, if Klein does not, is that most government intervention has a disparate racial impact – including interventions favored by liberals like Klein.
If you started out with the goal of ensuring that our prisons are going to be filled with thousands of young black men, it’s hard to think of anything more effective that trapping poor black children in rotten public schools and then imposing labor market restrictions that prevent them from obtaining entry level jobs.
Economist Walter Williams, who knows what it is like to grow up in a single-parent, low-income, black household, has this to say: