Race Behind Bars

Race Behind Bars

Organisation: The New York Times (United States)

Publication Date: 04/07/2017


Much attention gets paid to racial disparity in policing and in the courts, the "front end" of the U.S. justice system. This investigation focussed on the "back end" -- disparities that continue through incarceration and release. After officials dismissed a series of highly publicized prison brutality incidents as isolated cases, the New York Times obtained a database of prison disciplinary incidents and investigated how guards punish prisoners on a systemic basis and found that minority inmates were more likely to get punished; were often punished at a higher rate for infractions involving no physical evidence (such as disobeying orders); were more likely to face time in solitary confinement as a consequence of their infractions; and were sentenced to longer average stints in isolation. On top of that, the racial disparity continues when inmates appear before the parole board. While the board rarely grants parole to violent offenders of any race, the Times found the board to be more willing to give low-level offenders, like burglars, a chance if they were white. The day the second piece was published, the governor of New York ordered an independent investigation of the system.
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