Why are so many Black and Latinx people in jail? The answer will not surprise you — prison abolitionists have been saying it for years.
Harvard University’s Criminal Justice Policy Program released a report this month that found that Black and Latinx people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system compared to their population in the state of Massachusetts. Both groups serve longer sentences as well.
Using data collected from several Massachusetts criminal justice agencies, the report analyzes racial and ethnic disparities throughout the criminal process. On every level, the report found that the criminal justice system in Massachusetts suffers from institutionalized racism.
And it’s not because Black and Latinx people commit more crimes. In fact, researchers found that White people generally commit more serious crimes but spend less time in prison.
- Cops are more likely to arrest Black and Latinx people on charges that face worse sentencing.
- Prosecutors are more likely to elevate cases to the Superior Court and less likely to offer defendants plea deals
- Judges sentence Black and Latinx people to longer sentences.
On average, Black people are receiving sentences that are an average 168 days longer than their White counterparts, while Latinx people are receiving sentences an average of 148 days longer.
As Michael Harriot from The Root puts it, “a white person has to commit an egregious offense to wind up behind bars while all a Black person has to do is…well, be a Black person.”