Labor, Law, Race

Over at Nathan Newman:

… a white criminal gets more job interviews than a black person with no record at all. It almost boggles the mind that there are people who maintain that racism is no longer prevalent in our society.

This is based on an award winning dissertation from this year’s American Sociological Association meeting. It was originally posted over at Crooked Timber, where there is an interesting discussion in the comments with additional links.

I’m glad to see this discussion. There was a lot about the high rates of incarceration in the US when the Justice Department released a report last week stating that:

One in every 32 adults is now on probation, parole or incarcerated.

But few people seemed to address the racial inequalities in incarceration. The same Crooked Timber post also links to research which shows (PDF file):

that among men born 1965–69, 3 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks will have served time in prison by their early thirties.

Moreover, this data is heavily influenced by education.

Among black men born 1965–69, 30 percent of those without college education and nearly 60 percent of high school dropouts went to prison by 1999.

In the paper they cite earlier studies which argue that:

While crime rates may explain as much as 80 percent of the disparity in imprisonment, a significant residual suggests that blacks are punitively policed, prosecuted, and sentenced.

One of the big issues isn’t criminality but who goes to jail for what crimes. The legacy of the war on drugs is mandatory sentences for drug related crimes. Only recently did Connecticut overturn laws which imposed much stricter punishments on drug crimes committed within the vicinity of schools, churches, and day care sentences, after it was pointed out that these sentencing guidelines disproportionately affected the black population which lives in the much more densely populated urban areas.

Over a year ago I posted this on two articles by Loïc Wacquant:

Loïc Wacquant argues that the high rates of incarceration for black men needs to be understood in a broader historical framework in which slavery, jim-crow laws, and ghettos all served as several peculiar institutions’ [which] have successively operated to define, confine, and control African-Americans in the history of the United States”.

Those articles are still well worth reading. They can be found here and here.