Thursday, July 9, 2015

You Can Probably Guess How White the U.S.'s Elected Prosecutors Are

So white, according to a new report: An analysis released Tuesday by the Women Donors Network shows that 95% of the folks we've elected to make huge, life-altering decisions for us, including A) who among us gets charged with a felony versus a misdemeanor; B) who gets a plea bargain deal; and even C) how long we stay in prison, are white, often male and, in most cases, both.
In fact, of the 2,437 prosecutors who held elected office last summer, 79% were white men — a demographic that makes up just 31% of the general population, the New York Times reports.
This is not particularly surprising, given the lack of diversity in electoral politics overall. But it does erase any belief that the officials running our criminal justice system actually reflect the people they're throwing in jail by the hundreds of thousands.
Here are some numbers: The United States' incarcerated population reached more than 1.5 million people in 2013, not counting those in immigrant holding centers and juvenile detention facilities. In 1978, that number was less than 300,000, showing a 535% growth in 35 years. Meanwhile, the U.S. population grew 140% over the same period of time.
People of color make up 60% of the nation's incarcerated population, according to the Center for American Progress. And the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2013 that nearly half of all prisoners under state jurisdiction were locked up for nonviolent offenses.
Who's largely responsible for that? Prosecutors.

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