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Harvard’s Study on Black Incarceration: 15 Things You Need to Know

Harvard’s Study on Black Incarceration: 15 Things You Need to Know

Back in 2016 when Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants observed that African-Americans were imprisoned 6 times more than Whites, he tasked Harvard researchers to find out why.

In this blog, I will share 15 facts cumulated from the study focus on Massachusetts.

Today, what we will explore together include the research process, credibility, proof of credibility, and accompanying data that led Harvard reps:

Brook Hopkins, Criminal Justice Policy Program, CJPP, Executive Director;

Elizabeth Tsai Bishop, an empirical research fellow;

Chijindu Obiofuma, a legal fellow, and Felix Owusu, a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy to their conclusions. These are hard truths that you don’t want to miss out on.

Using regression analysis including factors such as the defendants’ criminal history and demographics, initial charge severity, court jurisdiction, and neighborhood characteristics, here is a brief of what these guys came up with.

The first on our list, at number 15, we will be looking at is the statistics that prompt Gants to ask Harvard researchers to “take a hard look at how we can better fulfill our promise to provide equal justice for every litigant.”

In Massachusetts, 655 of every 100,000 Black people are imprisoned, while there are only 82 Whites for that same number. This is according to data from the Massachusetts Sentencing Commission.

To make this a bit easier for us to comprehend: while 1 in 10 White Massachusettsians was convicted in 2016, it was 6 in 10 for Blacks.

And Harvard researchers provided enough reasons for this.

At number 14, we will look at a few of them.

But what do you think?

Is it that Black people committed more crimes? Well, no.

Do we have more African-Americans living in Massachusetts? Still a big NO.

Although any or a combination of these will seem logical, both assumptions are wrong.

The study examined the Massachusetts criminal process from charging to the racial disparities evident in sentencing. Working with data provided by The Trial Court records from their case management system, Court Activity Record Information (CARI) records from DCJIS, Massachusetts Department of Corrections (DOC) for individuals in the Trial Court data set who were sentenced to serve time in a DOC institution; American Community Survey, 2015 five-year data profile, legal and administrative consultants from  Massachusetts Code and, Massachusetts Sentencing Commission publications, the researchers unearthed disturbing occurrences typically depicted in movies.

Some of which we find hard to swallow.

And that is:

Cops are more likely to stop Black drivers.

Police are more likely to search for or more interested in investigating Black residents.

The FBI is likely to charge Black suspects with infractions that carry worse penalties.

Prosecutors are less likely to listen to Black suspects plea bargains or any sort of pre-trial intervention.

Judges sentence African-American defendants to rot longer in prisons.

These are both facts and truths.

But wait a minute, there might be a clear explanation for this.

That is, African-American have the habit of perpetrating worse crimes than Whites.

This immediately takes us to number 13.

Now, know that statistics are 100% WRONG. Of course, Black people don’t commit worse crimes than their White counterparts. Surprisingly, it is the other way around. The study revealed the average white felon has committed “a more severe” crime than the average Black convicts.

And somehow a large percentage of African-Americans end up with longer sentences exactly an average of 168 days longer.

Hold your hat, it gets interesting.

At number 12, know that Black people are less likely than Whites to have “their cases resolved through less severe dispositions. For instance, probation before trial or “continuances without findings”.

This is exactly what it says. There is no attempt at sensationalizing data right here nor creating propaganda or an agender. It is right THERE for anyone who cares enough to see.

Like the tip of your fingers reaching for your insides, we aren’t even scratching the surface yet.

At number 11, after these guys reviewed more than a million cases, they didn’t just find out that African-Americans end up with longer prison sentences but also with harsher verdicts. Now, they don’t just get to stay longer in prisons but their stay in prison is worse than what it should be. In the case of parole, the conditions could be somewhat extreme.

The sentences aren’t simply harsher but end with less favorable outcomes than that of the Whites.

But do you think you can dispute these facts?

We could try. However, we did end up being subjective about the whole affair rather than the necessity of objectivity despite how you and I racially categorize ourselves.

There’s still more from where all of this came from. This takes us to number 10. Blacks make up 24% of the Boston population. A relative minority group somehow ended up the major race at 63% stopped by cops, interrogated, and searched between 2007 and 2010.

We could make several conclusions but the most obvious are that police officers think African-Americans are simply criminals waiting to be shipped to jail. And they are responsible for hastening the process.

And at number 9, the study revealed that Black suspects, not convicts don’t easily get bailed. Records amassed from the research shows that there is a higher volume of African-American defendants detained without bail when you compare the figures to that of White defendants.

So, after they are arrested, the fact that police officers think Blacks are criminals, they fail to give them the chance of bail.

At number 8, know that even when Black people are eventually granted bail, the bail is set “slightly higher” than that of white defendants. And Blacks are also “slightly more” unable to pay bail compared to White defendants while on trial. This causes them to be detained for the duration of their case.

It goes deeper than that.

At number 7, law enforcement agents go as far as charging African-American with higher offenses. The statistics on the average longer prison sentences denote exactly this. So, when a Black man is convicted of assault, he gets 6months jail time, and a White man could get maybe 4-5months tops. Just saying.

The study further illustrated how White Americans actually get more serious initial charges and somehow, they end spending less time in jail compared to African-Americans with less serious initial charges.

At number 6, to make this possible, prosecutors are more likely to send Blacks to Superior Courts. Here, sentences are mostly longer as the “Superior Court exercises exclusive jurisdiction”. An obstacle that made it difficult to come to an objective conclusion.

A reason for this could be that prosecutors expect difficulty in convicting Black defendants and “offer larger charge discounts during the plea-bargaining process to obtain similar conviction rates”. However, know that this interpretation is inconsistent with other similar research that Black defendants are more likely to be convicted in jury trials compared to Whites.

Is this against the law? Well, if you refused to grant bail despite a suspect meeting the requirements, you might as well make it a whole worse.

The law enforcement agencies play their part, and the justice system simply complements them. Rather than breaking the wheel, these guys keep it rolling.

It doesn’t end at shipping Black people to a Superior Court to receive longer sentences. At number 5, when it comes to drug and weapon offenses, Blacks along with Latinx receive not only longer prison sentences but are more likely to be incarcerated in the first place compared to Whites.

It turns out that the justice system might conclude that African-Americans and Latinos deserved to be in jail when caught with drugs or unlicensed firearms.

Also, despite the severity of the crimes and what the report tagged additional factors in all drug and weapon offenses: this statistic didn’t waver.

The treatment of Black people convicted of mandatory weapon offenses appears especially punitive and doesn’t align with the supposed promoting of public safety.

The differences in punishment for OUI and weapons offenses in Massachusetts thus has the potential to create large racial disparities in outcomes that do not reflect a relative difference in risks to public safety.

However, despite Black defendants making up 16.4 percent of firearm cases in 2012, close to 46 percent of firearm offenders were Black. And 70.3 percent of the time, all the individual did was carry an unlicensed.

At number 4 we have more astonishing facts on criminal charges. Additionally, Blacks are also more likely to be jailed and receive longer incarceration sentences when charged with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences compared to their White counterparts.

At this point, you will have to wonder if Blacks would care any longer. I mean the part where they receive longer prison sentences. It doesn’t start when they are convicted. It goes as far back as during pretrial.

This leads us to number 3 on our list where the study also showed that Black and Latinx are slightly more likely than White defendants to be detained for the duration of their case.

If you think all of this ends with when a convict is behind bars, then you are quite far off. We are counting down all the way to 1 remember?

The study previews the 2013 Survey of Massachusetts Sentencing Practices revealing that 79.8 percent of Under the Influence OUI cases were resolved without incarcerating the defendants. And probation was the most common disposition.

Taking our number 2 spot, the report showed that Whites made up 82.2 percent of the people convicted of OUI offenses. It is kind of funny as carrying firearms and drunk driving are considered to have equal danger effects, yet Blacks get the brunt of it all, and White get away with it.

This is because they constitute 77% of the people who were not convicted of felony after admitting OUI. To keep this simple more White people are charged with OUI offenses, and a huge percentage of them get away without any conviction. Yet, it is the other way around for drugs and weapons offenses which poses a similar risk.

Now, what about when Blacks escape from conviction? If you think that could be better, then again you are far off. Finally, at number 1, know that Black people on average tend to receive shorter probation sentences.

Besides, the research showed that African-Americans are even less likely to receive probation sentences in the first place.

Although, they faced challenges such as access to complete data, full cooperation from the law, with what we have learned so far disparities among races doesn’t just end with cops pulling a George Floyd ordeal regularly; or pulling out a gun to an unarmed Black who isn’t bent on supposed cooperation; it is deep-rooted in the entire legal system right from that moment the cops pull you over to the going behind bars.

What do you think? Yes, this study revolves around Massachusetts but isn’t this a one size fits all thing? Share your opinions in the comment section below, and let’s talk about racism because that is inarguably what it is. If you think otherwise, I would love to hear it.



8 Restitution Fees Explained | What Does Probation Mean and What Does It Cost?

8 Restitution Fees Explained | What Does Probation Mean and What Does It Cost?

When it comes to laws and court cases, not knowing enough, or as much as lawyers could leave us unable to adequately justify ourselves. Or worse, properly make a claim seeing no way out. 

This is why in this blog I am going to share with you what probation means, its costs, and 8 different forms of restitution fees. Including what to do if you can’t pay a restitution or probation fee as ordered by the law court.

Today, we will delve into the justice system and explore some legalities. 

You will definitely find pieces of information in this blog potentially very useful. We can easily navigate our way out of some legal claims when we know enough about how to. 

The legal system is a bit complicated, and not entirely straightforward. There are steps you could take that reduces the impact of a verdict, or benefit more from a case. We will learn about all of these as we go on; stay with me.

So, what does probation mean?

Probation, in criminal law, is a period during which a person who commits a crime is under the watchful eyes of an officer rather than being sent to prison, or after serving a shortened jail time. The latter are referred to as parolees. 

We will learn more about parolees later and how their probation could be way more complicated. 

The basis of this supervision is to ensure offenders do not break the law, at least during their probation.

Know that probation is a conditional sentence. It is not like an offender is free or anything. Both a judge or the probation officer set conditions for the lawbreaker. 

If, or whenever the conditions are not upheld, the probation is revoked; the offender is subsequently sent to jail. The conditions vary depending on the crime, or jurisdiction where the crime was committed.

So you can simply conclude that probation is freedom on condition, and over 3.6million people in the US are in this freedom on condition.

Now, you have to know that not every offender has this offer on the table. If that’s the case, jails will be empty right?

Honestly, all crimes can be applicable for probation periods. However, it depends more on the offender, and some convictions are closer to receiving probation than others. 

First-time lawbreakers and misdemeanor charges are more likely to be granted probation. The main issue is that the conditions align with the severity of the crime.

Just like the probations condition differs, so does the fees attached. Yes, part of the conditions of probations is to pay monthly probation fees. The fee ranges from as low as $10 in States like Maine in the US to $150 in New Mexico. However, up to $50 is common with most states.

While probation is an offering to stay away from jail, restitution on the other hand is compensation convicted defendants pay to victims for their losses ensued from the offenders’ crime. 

Know that fines differ from restitution. Fines are intended to punish offenders. That of restitution serves as a medium to reimburse victims for losses caused by their offenders’ unlawful actions. 

At the same time restitution fees also differ from supervision fees, which require parolees under probation to pay a fee yearly. 

Parolees are sometimes also required to pay different restitution fees as a condition of their release. Note that these fees fall under the monetary type of restitution. Community services and direct services to victims are other types. We will now look at 8 monetary restitution.

Number 1 on our list of restitution fees is for property damaged or lost due to a crime. Parolees are required to pay to replace the cost of goods vandalized or stolen from the victims. 

This could come from either a store or house robbery, and other situations where the victim's property was damaged or lost. The cost is usually determined with store estimates or receipts for the items.

The offender can pay for this cost directly to the victim or a public authority delegated to take those payments. Property damage is common, what is not that common is the number 6 on our list. It doesn’t just make that much sense. In this case, it hurts the victims more than the assumed repayment. We will find out more about this fee and the circumstance later..

Number 2 restitution fees cover lost income resulting from injuries inflicted by the parolee. In a case where an individual beats up a spouse, partner, friend, or anyone, the victim could request for restitution for lost income. 

That is, the victim was unable to go to his or her place of work resulting in lost income. Once proven, the defendant is required to pay sick leave or vacation needed for recovery.

Besides lost income, restitution fees could cover direct-out-of-pocket expenses, which are our number 3. This could be expenses usually associated with increased insurance premiums that accompany stolen or damaged properties ensuing from a crime. 

Mostly, direct-out-of-budget expenses are usually loosely the results of crimes. It is not direct like, property damage.

There are other indirect claims victims can easily request for. 

Number 4 is for fraud cases. When someone is defrauded, such an individual can request the defendant pays the money lost. 

Once the court can appropriately prove that the individual was indeed a victim of fraud, in addition to a jail sentence for some state, the parolee will pay a restitution fee. This payment would cover the losses incurred as a result of their unlawful fraudulent actions. 

From property damaged or lost to compensation for defrauding an individual, we have seen 4 different restitution fees. 

There are more of them that a victim will find useful. Additionally, parolees could also find a way to avoid paying restitution fees due to low income. 

At number 5, we have medical, and therapy expenses. These are costs such as hospital bills and that of rehabilitation resulting from an assault. An offender is required to repay the victim for the amount spent to treat the injuries sustained following their alteration. 

It could also be extended to therapeutic sessions the victim had to go through after such assault. This could even result from domestic violence or sexual abuse. 

Besides, therapy expenses indirectly cover the victim’s family members in murder cases. Yes, restitution fees could be requested in murder cases. This takes us to the next monetary restitution on our list.

At number 6, we have the funeral cost. Now, this is exactly the fee that is inconsequential to the crime. Murderers are required to pay the funeral cost of their victims. 

The least the victims’ families would want is to stay far away from their friends’ or family members’ killers, whether having forgiven them or not. 

If a family requests for such payment or not, the law court still insists that the offenders pay the cost of burying their victims.

Number 7 is based on the non-consensual publication of an intimate image. If you had an intimate image of yourself uploaded on the internet, you don’t have to pay to get it off the internet or other digital platforms. 

You can easily sue the offender and demand restitution. With enough evidence, the court will order the defendant to pay to get the image removed. We will now learn about the last monetary restitution before we see how we can get out of not paying the fee.

Finally, at number 8, we have expenses incurred from moving out of offenders’ households. There could be cases where an individual is forced to move out of their common-law partners or family members’ house after being issued threats of harm or harm from such persons. 

As a result, the victims could insist on being repaid on every expense they have incurred. This could be from temporary housing, food, moving, transportation, childcare, and other miscellaneous expenses. If the victim can adequately provide receipts for all of this, then the defendant would have to pay.

But, in all these cases, what if the parolee can’t afford to pay the restitution fee? Well, after providing evidence that supports this, government-run compensation programs will take over. 

This way, the state can fund the reimbursement ensuring a victim is repaid for the losses suffered from crime. This also applies when there hasn’t been a conviction.

From the meaning of probation to the different cost restitution fees cover, we can conclude that:

One, knowing enough about the law can help us better state our claim as victims; 

Two, we can also better defend ourselves;

And finally, the intricacies about the judicial system are not as straightforwardly and typically complicated by the offender, crime, and state where the crime was committed. All of these reflect in the final verdict.

However, what do you make of the restitution fees? What, especially, do you think of the law providing a medium for offenders to avoid paying for the losses resulting from their criminal actions? 

Yes, the law is trying to be fair, however, what’s your say in all of this? Leave your opinions in the comments section.

That’s all for now.

Prison Logic Update

Prison Logic Update

Please leave a comment below and let me know how you feel about this update as well as how I can make future updates better!