Around 1400 girls were sexually assaulted in Rotherham, England between 1997 and 2013. Officials in that town’s Labour Party government turned a blind eye to the victims out of political correctness, because the perpetrators were Pakistanis, while the victims were mostly working-class white girls (children as young as 11).
But England seems to have learned little from that episode. Indeed, a recent report from a Labour Party member of its Parliament, David Lammy, has taken aim at British police and courts for jailing black criminals at a high rate. The Lammy Review questions the fact that blacks are jailed in the UK at four times the rate for citizens of other races, even though that fact is not surprising by world standards — blacks are also jailed at four times the rate in the United States.
The higher black crime rate, not racism, explains the higher numbers of blacks in jail. Reflecting this reality, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996 rejected the “presumption that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, because it is “contradicted by” reality. It did so in a 8-to-1 ruling joined in even by most of the Supreme Court’s liberal justices, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (See United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456 (1996)). One can rule out racism in the criminal justice system as the root cause of these disparities because the “race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data.”
But rather than recognize this reality, British Prime Minister Theresa May foolishly catered to Lammy, a member of her political opposition. As the UK Independent reported,
The Ministry of Justice will adopt recommendations from the recent Lammy Review, chaired by David Lammy MP, including performance indicators for prisons to assess how prisoners of different races are treated, while encouraging recruitment of ethnic minority staff.An external review will also be brought in to improve [school discipline] exclusion policy, with a focus on ethnic groups disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled…..Launching the report, the Prime Minister will say: “People who have lived with discrimination don’t need a government audit to make them aware of the scale of the challenge.“But this audit means that for society as a whole – for government, for our public services – there is nowhere to hide.
The idea of changing school discipline to address the fact that certain “ethnic groups” are “disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled” is particularly alarming, since if certain ethnic groups are disproportionately violating school rules, then they should be disproportionately “suspended or expelled.” Distinguished judges have recognized as much.
As America’s most famous appellate judge noted in a unanimous appeals court decision, “Racial disciplinary quotas violate equity in its root sense. They entail either systematically overpunishing the innocent or systematically underpunishing the guilty. They place race at war with justice.” [Posner, chief judge, in People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, 111 F.3d 528, 538 (7th Cir. 1997)].
That ruling overturned a provision forbidding a “school district to refer a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline unless the district purges all ‘subjective’ criteria from its disciplinary code.” It ruled that such a provision was an illegal racial quota.
Despite this ruling, the Obama administration later subjected school districts’ suspension policies to external review when more blacks were suspended than whites. That resulted in at least two large school districts adopting illegal racial quotas in school suspensions, something they did to keep the Education Department from cutting off their federal funds.
A 2014 study found that black students were suspended at a higher rate precisely because they misbehave in school at a higher rate and more persistently. [See John Paul Wright, Mark Alden Morgan, Michelle A. Coyne, Kevin M. Beaver, & J.C. Barnes, “Prior problem behavior accounts for the racial gap in school suspensions,” Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 42, issue 3, May-June 2014, Pages 257-266].
U.S. crime statistics prove misbehavior rates aren’t the same for different ethnic and racial groups. 51.1% of all Americans charged with murder or manslaughter were black, as of 2015, even though only about one eighth of the U.S. population is black. [See U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015 Uniform Crime Reports: Crime in the United States, Table 43A, Arrests by Race, 2015]. The murder rate is eight times as high for blacks as for non-Hispanic whites.
Similarly, as Katherine Kersten noted in 2016 in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, black students’ discipline rate is higher than other students’ because, on average, they misbehave more. Similarly, she notes, “young black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at 10 times the rate” of white males.
Higher rates of misconduct among black students are not surprising, since they are more likely to come from a single-parent family, which is linked to higher rates of misbehavior. Blacks in the UK were more than twice as likely as whites to be raised in a single-parent household, according to 2007 and 2011 statistics.
The vast majority of juvenile delinquents and young criminals come from single-parent households, where firm discipline is often missing.
As the Brookings Institution has observed:
[B]lack students are also more likely to come from family backgrounds associated with school behavior problems; for example, children ages 12–17 that come from single-parent families are at least twice as likely to be suspended as children from two-parent families.
(Tom Loveless, The 2017 Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well Are American Students Learning?, March 2017, at pp. 30-31).
Reflecting this reality, courts have rejected arguments that higher black suspension rates reflect anything other than black students’ own higher rate of misbehaving. One federal appeals court rejected the “assumption ‘that “undiscipline” or misbehavior is a randomly distributed characteristic among racial groups,” recognizing that higher black suspension rates reflect student misbehavior, not racism by teachers or principals. (Coalition to Save Our Children v. State Board of Education, 90 F.3d 752, 775 (3d Cir. 1996)).
Another federal appeals court rejected the argument that statistics showing that “sixty-six percent” of students disciplined were black showed racism, saying that this “‘disparity does not, by itself, constitute discrimination,’” and provided “no evidence” that the school district “targets African-American students for discipline.” (Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 269 F.3d 305, 332 (4th Cir. 2001) (en banc)).
Poverty may also contribute to higher rates of misbehavior among blacks. Blacks are more likely to grow up in poverty, according to a 2016 report by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission. A 2007 U.S. government report found that serious “discipline problems” were much more common in schools with many poor children, and frequent “verbal abuse of teachers” occurred at nearly five times the rate in those schools. (Rachel Dinkes, et al., Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2007 (2007), pg. 26).
Blacks’ higher arrest and conviction rates is not due to racism. Black victims themselves tend to identify their assailants as black.
As the City Journal has noted:
As long ago as 1978, a study of robbery and aggravated assault in eight cities found parity between the race of assailants in victim identifications and in arrests — a finding replicated many times since, across a range of crimes. No one has ever come up with a plausible argument as to why crime victims would be biased in their reports.
For example, 43.7% of all rapists in U.S. state prisons were black, according to a 1997 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, even though blacks are only 13% of the general population. [See Lawrence A. Greenfeld, Statistician, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders (Feb. 1997) (NCJ-163392)]. The people they raped were disproportionately other black people who reported the offense, eliminating racial bias as a factor in reporting.
Recent studies show that curbing school suspensions of black students harms other black students. That is not surprising, since black students are often victims of black-on-black violence.
Professor Joshua Kinsler found that “in public schools with discipline problems, it hurts those innocent African American children academically to keep disruptive students in the classroom,” and “cutting out-of-school suspensions in those schools widens the black-white academic achievement gap.” When New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio sharply curbed suspensions, “schools where more than 90% of students were minorities experienced the worst” effects on school safety.
Similarly, as education researcher Max Eden points out in the New York Post, “the most rigorous study, by University of Arkansas researchers, found a small academic benefit to suspensions, and a study by a University of Georgia professor found that efforts to decrease the racial-suspension gap actually increase the racial achievement gap.”
The Lammy report doesn’t seem to grasp how its focus on reducing racial disparities is at odds with its claimed desire for more leniency towards first-time offenders. As lawyer and statistician James Scanlan notes, it seems to be rooted in “ignorance” about how statistics work.
Because blacks are more likely to be repeat offenders than whites, leniency for first-time offenders reduces incarceration and suspension rates for whites at an even higher rate than it reduces incarceration and suspension rates for blacks. The net result is that leniency increases the ratio of jailed or suspended blacks to whites, and thus increases relative racial disparities (known as “disparate impact”).
Yet the Lammy report misguidedly thinks the opposite will happen, even though it admits that black offenders are more likely to reoffend. As Scanlan points out, leniency will increase the black share of the prison population, the exact opposite of what Lammy seems to assume:
The report finds that black offenders are more likely to reoffend than other offenders and it cites approvingly the practice of expunging the records of offenders who do not reoffend. Yet the fact that black offenders are more likely to become multiple offenders than other offenders necessarily means that expunging records of first offenders who do no reoffend will cause the black proportion of persons with criminal records to increase. This point may be compared to [data attached to Scanlan’s July 17 letter to U.S. agencies showing] that giving students reprimands instead of their first suspension will tend to increase the proportions groups with generally higher suspension rates make up of persons with one or more suspensions.
The same may be said of the Lammy report’s recommendation, highlighted in the press release as a “particularly radical proposal,” of deferring prosecution of low level offenders and dropping charges where the offenders successfully complete targeted rehabilitation. Whether radical or not, and whether a good or bad idea, the approach will tend to increase the proportion racial minorities make up of persons ultimately prosecuted.