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    Want to do the crime but not the time in Washington? Be white

    A new study finds that blacks and Latinos face much greater likelihood of winding up in prison compared to whites arrested for the same crime. At each step through the criminal justice system, race may subconsciously play into the decisions, adding up to gross unfairness.

    Washington state's Monroe Correctional Complex

    Washington state's Monroe Correctional Complex Washington state Department of Corrections

    A black person arrested in Washington is more than 6 times as likely to get prison time than a comparable white person charged with the same crime. A Latino arrested in Washington is 1.5 times more likely to get prison time than a similar white arrestee.

    The reasons for those disparities are hard to pin down, with no clear-cut villains. Racial bias exists. But it is subconscious, subtle, showing up in tiny increments as an arrested person goes through the state's criminal justice system.

    That's what a pair of Seattle University law school researchers told the Washington Senate's Judiciary Committee in Olympia recently. Robert Chang, executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and Robert Boruchowitz, director of the center's The Defender Initiative, briefed the committee about the center's preliminary report on "Race and the Criminal Justice System."

    The report was prompted by late 2010 remarks — reported by The Seattle Times — by Washington Supreme Court Justices Richard Sanders and James Johnson that blacks are over-represented in prisons because they commit a greater portion of crimes than white people. A coalition of about 30 universities and legal groups including the Washington Bar Association examined that claim, which resulted in the briefing during the legislative session that ended earlier this month. Sanders later lost a re-election bid for the Supreme Court.

    "We found that the assertion attributed to then-Justice Sanders that African-Americans are overrepresented in the prison population because they commit a disproportionate number of crime is a gross oversimplication," the report said.

    Sen. Adam Kline, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the study could lead to the development of new legislation next year, but he expressed doubt about quick enactment.

    The study found no definite link between race and the likelihood of a person of that color committing a crime. However, it found race appeared to be a significant factor in the greater likelihood of a non-white person going to prison or jail than a white person would for committing the same crime.

    Washington' imprisonment rate for African-Americans has been abnormally high for decades. A 1980 national study found that across the United States, black arrestees were four times more likely to to be imprisoned than arrested whites. That 1980 study found that Washington had the worst ratio in the nation with black arrestees being slightly more than nine times more likely to be imprisoned than arrested whites.

    The study coalition crunched numbers from the criminal justice systems across the state, finding that in 2010:

    • An arrested black person had a 6.1 times greater chance of getting prison time than a similar white criminal. The King County ratio was 10.9 times as much. Pierce County's ratio was six times as much. Other ratios included 8.4 in Thurston County, six in Kitsap County, 4.7 in Snohomish County, 62.2 in Clark County, and 83.9 in Yakima County.
    • While an arrested Latino had a 1.5 times greater chance of getting prison time than a similiar white arrestee statewide, the chance was twice a much as a white person in King County. Pierce County was 1.3 times as much. Other ratios included 1.1 in Thurston County, 1.6 in Kitsap County, 0.8 in Snohomish County, and 19.1 in Asotin County.
    • An arrested Native American had a 4.1 times greater chance of getting prison time than a similar white arrestee. That chance was 7.2 times as much in King County. Other ratios were 4.7 in Pierce County, 3.6 in Thurston County, 3.5 in Kitsap County, 2.7 in Snohomish County and 27.3 in Chelan County.
    • A black person in Washington was 3.6 times more likely than a similar white arrestee to be convicted of drug crime, 3.1 times more likely to be convicted of a property crime and 5.6 times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime. A Native American was 1.4 times more likely than a similar white arrestee of being convicted of a drug crime, 1.3 times more likely to be convicted of a property crime, and 2.1 times more likely to be convicted of a violent crime.

    "Apparently we have a dark side and it's our job to clean it up," said committee chair Kline, a Seattle Democrat.

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    Posted Wed, Dec 21, 7:20 a.m. Inappropriate

    Don't worry, the Governor appointed a "minority rights first" Supreme Court Justice to the court. He is a big supporter of LaRaza and Illegal Immigrant Rights.


    I guess we can look forward to less emphasis on any person of color being arrested, prosecuted and jailed for any crimes. We can call it the Gonzales-Kline budget reduction program.


    Posted Wed, Dec 21, 8:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    Yep. Sounds like a UW grad.


    Posted Wed, Dec 21, 8:48 a.m. Inappropriate

    Hmm more blacks in prison than whites? More blacks are beaten up by cops?
    The reason for more blacks in prison NOT because of increased crime in their area?

    OK let us try a theory - More police presance must equal more arrests which must equal more prison.

    OK so here we go
    Pull tha cops out of the black areas. We will have them patrol Broadmoor Madison Park and other fairly white areas.
    So the arrest rate should go up in Broadmoor etc.
    The arrest rate will fall in black areas
    The police brutality in black areas will decrease (Oh thank God I am so tired of it)
    The crime rate will not increase in black areas.


    Posted Wed, Dec 21, 3:21 p.m. Inappropriate

    It's nice to know that in a time of peace on earth and good will towards all men and women, the voice of racism and narrow-mindedness can still be heard throughout the land. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to one and all.

    Posted Wed, Dec 21, 3:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    Maybe Santa will bring you a new Party Power Word, Swifty. You've worn your old ones out.


    Posted Wed, Dec 21, 4:09 p.m. Inappropriate

    Why thank you BlueLight. Sorry about that bag of coal Santa brings you every Xmas.

    Posted Thu, Dec 22, 6:37 a.m. Inappropriate

    Is it racist and narrow-minded to ask the Government to follow the Law? Or is it the behavior of the individuals being apprehended, tried and jailed that needs to be addressed and not thier ethnicity?


    Posted Thu, Dec 22, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

    Cameron: I appreciate your commnt. However, the other commentors have made their case, such as it is, with the sarcasm and mean spiritedness that leads me to conclude that their thinking reflects a deep-seated dislike for those different from them. There is an anger and fear in all of their remarks that denotes an inability to engage issues, and in response to ideas they can only disparage. Clearly this issue is a complex one, and people do need to be punished for their deeds. However, as we have seen in the news time and time again, people of color, and more inclusively, poor, uneducated people, unable to afford good representation, are often treated differently by the police and the justice system than more well-educated and affluent folks. I can speak from my own experiences when I was younger on this one. Happy holidays to you.

    Posted Thu, Dec 22, 1:02 p.m. Inappropriate

    He's not bringing me coal this year, Swifty. He says new EPA regulations made it too expensive. Funny, you hear racism, I hear sanctimony.


    Posted Fri, Dec 23, 9:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    I'll be happy when the number of Norwegian-Americans incarcerated are the same as the Greco-Romans. It's time to clean up Ballard.


    Posted Fri, Dec 30, 12:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    The racism is subtle--just barely acknowledged, if at all. And they've got the numbers (to the 10ths!) to prove it.

    It would be interesting to know how researchers were able to factor their own unacknowledged biases in their estimates. but nevermind. The democratic legislature can do anything--even fix peoples' unconscious behaviors.

    Posted Wed, May 1, 11:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    Did ANY of the commenters even read this story before commenting?

    The story says NO TIE BETWEEN RACE AND CRIME, in clear english.


    The subject is how people are treated DIFFERENTLY when they commit the SAME crimes.

    White person X commits crime = gets one penalty
    Black person Y commits THE SAME CRIME = gets a STIFFER penalty

    How can you even defend that?


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