Racial disparity has plagued our justice system from the beginning of this nation until now.
Although balance is the aim and equality the goal, our nation’s legal system hasn’t been able to achieve this. I’m reminded of the movie “Are We There Yet,” travelling from one point to another seems like an eternal journey for children. So the road to equality for minorities often time, feels the same way – “an eternal journey,” but we never give up.
I presented at University College Day, a comprehensive analysis of sentencing patterns and racial disparities at the local level. The objective was to devise a method of analyzing meticulously individual courts disposed cases and discovering each courts unique pattern of disparities.
I believe this can help us to understand where the problem exists individually first. Using the 2009 disposed criminal cases from Smith County, Texas, 114th District Court will illustrate some of these areas. This county has one of the highest incarceration rates in the state, which undoubtedly encompasses racial disparities.
The county has three adult criminal district courts, and we use one of them for this analysis. We use detailed information gathered from the court’s 2009 disposed adult criminal cases except for cases of revocation. Sixty-eight fields of data in SPSS were used in analyzing these cases.
A comparison of racial disparity in conjunction with demographics, pleas, plea bargains, priors (prior offenses), number of charges per incident, bond amounts, and type of sentencing will be presented.
We will contrast arrest rates by category of crime with convictions in those categories. For the curious, there will be a snapshot of what the incarceration rate would look like if all groups had similar incarceration levels. Other information includes Smith County’s yearly disparity trend of incarceration and its local arrest rates in comparison to the state and national levels.
In closing, there will be a comparison of Smith County, state, and national levels of sentencing disparities.