Institutional Racism in SC Courts

The effects of institutional racism start early.

Nationwide, African-American children are almost 20 times more likely than white children to be tried as adults, according to a report released by the American Psychological Association.

Black kids make up more than half of all children sentenced to prison.

What about adults?

The American Civil Liberties Union says that Department of Justice statistics clearly show that law enforcement officials treat black people differently from white people.

During a traffic stop, police are three times more likely to search black drivers and passengers. They are twice as likely to arrest them, and almost 400 percent more likely to threaten force or even use force against blacks during traffic stops.

The ACLU says DOJ has tried to hide statistics showing that, while blacks are more likely to be searched during a traffic stop, those who are searched are less likely than white suspects to be carrying anything illegal.

Race Has A Profound Effect on Jury Selection and Performance

According to a report from the Sentencing Project, prosecutors still aim for all-white juries. And it matters. When five or more white men serve on a jury hearing a case involving a black defendant and alleged white victims, there is a significantly higher chance of conviction and a sentence of death.

At the same time, one black man on the jury decreases the chance of a guilty verdict and a death sentence.

Societal changes in the decades since the Civil Rights Movement have made white Americans less likely to express overt racist attitudes.

In fact, these changes have probably helped create a generation of white Americans who are less racist than their elders. But the fact remains: White jurors find black defendants guilty far more often than white defendants, even when the amount and quality of evidence are comparable.

Prosecutors Are Good at Hiding Racist Juror Selections

Prosecutors know they can do it. And prosecutors are in the business of getting convictions. So, it’s not surprising that black Americans are excluded from juries far more often than white Americans, especially in capital cases and other cases involving serious crimes.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) notes that, of course, prosecutors don’t come out and say that jurors were excluded because of their race – they instead say the potential juror was turned away because of signs of low intelligence, because they dressed or walked in a particular way, or because of the job that they work.

EJI reports that some solicitor’s offices train prosecutors on how to exclude black people from juries and how to present the exclusions as having nothing to do with race.

This may be thinly veiled racism, but judges far too often go along with these kinds of exclusions. And, in many cases, they are required to, so long as there is no Batson violation.

Can Artificial Intelligence End Racism in the Courts?

Some legal experts hope that the introduction of artificial intelligence into courtrooms will eliminate some of the effects of institutional racism.

Judges in some courtrooms are already using AI to help with setting bail and with sentencing – the software completes a kind of checklist to determine which defendants are more likely to commit another crime or skip bail. The idea is that, while some people may be racist, the AI is not, so white and black defendants should, in theory, be treated the same.

A report from ProPublica shows that, in fact, they are not. The AI consistently predicts that black defendants are significantly more likely to re-offend.

How could this happen? The problem with AI is that it learns everything it knows from … people.

The programs learn who to consider a higher risk by looking at historical crime data. Because prosecutors, juries, and judges have historically treated black defendants as more dangerous, more likely to re-offend, and deserving of harsher sentences, the AI just learns and adopts the same biases that have plagued the criminal justice system for centuries.

What’s the answer?

First, let’s recognize the problem. Then, let’s agree that it needs to be solved. Then, maybe, we can come together and find new methods that work?

SC Criminal Defense Lawyer in Lexington, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach

Criminal defense and DUI defense attorney Lacey Thompson accepts criminal defense cases in the Columbia, Lexington, Conway, and Myrtle Beach SC areas. Call at 843-444-6122 or fill out our online contact form if you have questions or to set up a free initial consultation.

One Response to “Institutional Racism in SC Courts

  • Donna Carolina-Boyd
    2 years ago

    I enjoy reading your articles immensely. It is so encouraging to know that a so called white attorney has integrity and a sense of justice. Wishing you the Best,

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