According to FBI statistics, White Americans commit nearly three times more crimes than Black Americans. Yet, Blacks make up nearly half the prison population. Why?
It’s a logical question, is it not? When it comes to the issue of justice in America, crime is crime, right?
Well, there’s the “per capita” argument.
Why does “per capita” matter?
In short, concerning crime sentencing, it doesn’t.
“Per capita,” for example, works like the following scenario.
- 20 out of 100 Whites eat apples.
- There are 10 Blacks. Four of them also eat apples.
Since there’s a higher concentration of Blacks eating apples, does that change the fact that 20 Whites also eat apples?
The “per capita” argument says that it matters — yet, in crime sentencing, it does not.
Overall, four Blacks ate apples and 20 Whites ate apples.
Likewise, if 20 White Americans commit rape, and four Black Americans also commit rape, shouldn’t there be 24 people going to jail, regardless of population concentration?
But, is that how it happens?
Take the recent release of Brock Turner, as reports Los Angeles Times. He’s the Stanford student who raped a woman and got off due to his upbringing and “potential future.”
He committed a heinous crime, yet, the judge saw fit to grant him leniency.
Would such compassion have been shown if a Black man had done the same to the woman? For instance, Corey Batey had a promising future in football. But, he received 15 years anyway.
The U.S. prison system shows that such compassion tends to be far less existent in regards to Blacks.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, April statistics show 73,557 Blacks incarcerated — 37.8 percent of the prison population. Likewise, it also shows 115,046 Whites incarcerated — 58.8 percent of the population.
But then, there’s another argument.
“Well, the reason the FBI says there are more Whites as criminals is simply because there are more of them,” someone might further argue, in line with “per capita” statements.
By that logic alone, shouldn’t that also mean that far more White Americans should be in prison, as opposed to Blacks slightly trailing the lead?
As concerns the ethnic breakdown of crime statistics, although Black Americans show a higher population percentage of criminals, it still fails in comparison to the total number of crimes that Whites commit.
So, that might also suggest that a large number of White criminals don’t receive prison sentences for the same crimes — similar to Brock Turner.
Have a look at the FBI’s 2013 statistics for yourself. These statistics show the result for White American percentage breakdowns for U.S. crimes.
1. Rape – 66.2 percent
2. Aggravated Assault – 62.9 percent
3. Burglary – 67.9 percent
4. Larceny & Theft – 68.3 percent
5. Motor Vehicle Theft – 66.7 percent
6. Arson – 74.1 percent
7. Violent Crime – 58.3 percent
8. Property Crime – 68.2 percent
9. Other Assaults – 65.1 percent
10. Forgery & Counterfeiting – 64.2 percent
11. Fraud – 66.1 percent
12. Embezzlement – 62.7 percent
13. Stolen Property: Buying, Receiving, Possessing, etc. – 67.4 percent
14. Vandalism – 70.7 percent
15. Weapons (Carrying, Possessing, etc.) – 58.2 percent
16. Prostitution – 54 percent
17. Sexual Offenses – 72.4 percent
18. Drug Abuse Violations – 67.7 percent
19. Offense against Family & Children – 65 percent
20. Driving Under the Influence – 84.2 percent
21. Disorderly Conduct – 62.2 percent
22. Vagrancy – 64.3 percent
23. Suspicion – 60.5 percent
24. Murder and Manslaughter – 45.3 percent
25. Robbery – 41.9 percent
26. Gambling – 28.3 percent
In the last three, African-American percentages were greater, with 52.2, 56.4, and 66.5, respectively.
As you can see from the aforementioned tweet, “per capita” makes sense in that regard, yes?
However, do criminals only go to jail for murder, robbery, and illegal gambling? Of course not.
The overall percentage for White crime was 68.9. And a year later, it raised to 69.4 percent in the 2014 crime statistics. On the contrary, Black crime decreased in 2014, showing 27.8 percent — as opposed to 2013’s 28.3.
While it makes statistical sense that Whites outnumber other minorities in prison, it doesn’t make sense that the numbers vary only by 40,000, give or take, compared to the total number of White crimes listed.
For example, in 2014, the number of arrests approximated to 6 million for White crimes. Likewise, it approximated to 2.4 million for Black crimes. Now, of course, all of those arrests didn’t see prison sentences.
However, for this scenario, let’s say that 3 percent did go to prison. And, let’s say that all was “fair” in deciding these sentences.
The numbers reported by the Federal Bureau of Prisons would be off by less than 6,000 for Black inmates. Whereas, for White inmates, it would be off by nearly 80,000.
By this simple percentage, the number of White inmates who didn’t get prison sentences approximates to the number of current Black inmates within the entire prison population.
And regardless the percentage used in the calculation, as long as you use it fairly between the two, it will always give the same ratio.
If you would argue that the statistics are wrong, and a higher percentage should be used for one and not the other, then that would also say that you realize the judicial system isn’t sentencing crimes fairly, right?
Your thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
[Photo by iStock/Getty Images]