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Does Race and Color Factor Into Criminal System?

If you ask most jurors, they will tell you that color has no factor in making their determination.  If you ask most defense attorneys, they believe that it absolutely is a major factor throughout the system.  Consider the following facts from the Center for American Progress and then make your own determination:

  • People of color are significantly overrepresented in the U.S. prison population, making up more than 60 percent of the people behind bars. Despite being only 13 percent of the overall U.S. population, 40 percent of those who are incarcerated are black. Latinos represent 16 percent of the overall population but 19 percent of those who are incarcerated. On the other hand, whites make up 64 percent of the overall population but account for only 39 percent of those who are incarcerated.
  • People of color are more likely to become entangled in the criminal justice system.Among black males born in 2001, one in three will go to prison at some point during their lifetimes; one in six Latino males will have the same fate. By contrast, only 1 out of every 17 white males is expected to go to prison. A similar pattern exists among women: 1 in 111 white women, 1 in 18 black women, and 1 in 45 Latina women will go to prison at some point. African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites.
  • The "War on Drugs" has disproportionately affected people of color. Despite using and selling drugs at rates similar to those of their white counterparts, African Americans and Latinos comprise 62 percent of those in state prisons for drug offenses and 72 percent of those sentenced for federal drug trafficking offenses, which generally carry extreme mandatory minimum sentences.
  • People of color, particularly black males, face longer sentences than their white non-Hispanic counterparts for similar crimes. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, between 2007 and 2011, sentences for black males were 19.5 percent longer than those for whites. Furthermore, black men were 25 percent less likely to receive sentences below the sentencing guidelines for the crime of which they were convicted.
  • During traffic stops, people of color are more likely to be searched than their white counterparts. National survey data show that blacks and Latinos are three times more likely to be searched than whites. Blacks are searched in 6 percent of traffic stops and Hispanics are searched in 7 percent of stops, whereas whites are searched only 2 percent of the time.
  • Students of color continue to face harsher punishments at school than their white non-Hispanic counterparts. A 2010 study found that more than 70 percent of students who are "involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement" are black or Latino. Furthermore, black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. During the 2011-12 school year, 16 percent of black K-12 students were suspended, compared with 7 percent of Latino students and 5 percent of white students.
  • Voting restrictions on the formerly incarcerated have disenfranchised millions of voters, particularly African Americans. Today, approximately 5.9 million people are not able to vote due to felony convictions. While laws vary from state to state--with some allowing for restoration of voting rights--1 in 13 blacks nationwide are disenfranchised due to felony convictions. In Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia, more than one in five black adults are denied the right to vote.

Information provided by the Center for American Progess.  For an attorney in Northern Kentucky or Cincinnati, contact Michael Bouldin at the Bouldin Law Firm at 859-581-6453; call 581-MIKE.

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