City Lab January 2018 The Great Crime Decline and the Comeback of Cities

Two of the most remarkable trends in recent years have been the tremendous decline in violent crime and the comeback of once downtrodden and written-off cities. In his new book, Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life and the New War on Violence, New York University sociologist Patrick Sharkey argues that these two trends are inextricably related. The decline in violent crime has paved the way for the urban revival, and the urban revival has in turn helped to stabilize neighborhoods and make them safer and better places to live.


The Intercept January 2018 New Report Finds Class Is a More Potent Predictor of Incarceration Than Race. But Racism Drives It.

Is it a racist economic system that produces a disproportionate population of impoverished African-Americans who then are ground up by a criminal justice system that targets the poor? Or is it better explained by racial bias in policing and sentencing?

A new report from the People’s Policy Project argues that while both exist, it’s economic oppression that matters most — or, at least, matters first.


American Conservative January 2018 Racial Protest And ‘Collective Narcissism’

The black scholar Shelby Steele dropped a bomb on the pages of the Wall Street Journal yesterday. Whether you agree with him or not, it took a lot of courage to write the piece, which is, unfortunately, behind a paywall. …

In it, Steele reflects that black protest has lost its power to change minds in our culture. Steele says the self-defeating nature of the NFL kneeling protests — they have not only failed to change minds, but have ended up hurting the league. He says that unlike Martin Luther King and the civil rights protesters, these wealthy players took no serious risks. Nevertheless, because black protest has in the recent past been so incredibly effective, it makes sense that they would follow this model.


People’s Policy Project January 2018 Mass Incarceration: New Jim Crow, Class War, or Both?

For all four incarceration outcomes, being lower class rather than middle or upper class makes a massive difference. Being black rather than white makes a modest difference that is statistically insignificant for all outcomes except one: the probability of being in jail or prison for more than a year. And even in that case, whites in the lowest class group are more likely to have been incarcerated for more than a year than blacks in the second-to-lowest class group.

Thus the primary reason why there is such a big overall gap in black and white incarceration rates appears to be differences in the class composition of each racial group.


The Atlantic January 2018 The Criminalization of Gentrifying Neighborhoods

When low-income neighborhoods see an influx of higher-income residents, social dynamics and expectations change. One of those expectations has to do with the perception of safety and public order, and the role of the state in providing it. The theory goes that as demographics shift, activity that was previously considered normal becomes suspicious, and newcomers—many of whom are white—are more inclined to get law enforcement involved. Loitering, people hanging out in the street, and noise violations often get reported, especially in racially diverse neighborhoods.


HuffPost January 2018 Trump Court Pick Can’t Say If Racial Bias Exists In The Justice System

During his Wednesday confirmation hearing, Brennan, a white lawyer from Wisconsin who is nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, repeatedly dodged the question posed by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

“Do you think implicit racial bias exists in our criminal justice system?” asked Booker, one of three black members to ever serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I would indicate only that I would do my very best as a judge to ensure that no biases came in,” said Brennan, who was trial judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court for nine years.


FiveThirtyEight December 2017 Why We Can’t Be Sure If Violent Crime Is On The Rise

The 2016 survey found that there were about 21.1 violent crime victimizations2 per 1,000 persons age 12 or older. On its face, that would suggest a big rise in violent crime from the roughly 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 people identified in the 2015 NCVS. And the UCR released relatively similar findings in September, which appears to confirm that there was a rise in violent crime nationally in 2016.

“Appears” is the key word there, however. In fact, there are a number of reasons to be cautious about interpreting this year’s NCVS, as well as the UCR.

Part of the NCVS involves estimating what percentage of certain crimes are reported to law enforcement. The 2016 NCVS found that just 42 percent of violent crimes and 36 percent of property crimes were reported to police last year. Ultimately, if less than half of (non-murder) violent crimes are reported to the police, then year-to-year trends highlighted in the UCR may or may not be accurate — it’s possible that they’re more a reflection of fluctuations in how many people report a crime each year rather than changes in how many crimes are actually committed. And the UCR is one of our main pieces of evidence that violent crime has increased.


NY Times December 2017 Video Shows Officer Fatally Shooting Unarmed, Pleading Man

Newly released body camera footage shows a police officer shooting an unarmed man in an Arizona hotel after the man sobbed and pleaded with officers not to shoot him.

The graphic video, which was released after a jury on Thursday acquitted the officer of murder and manslaughter charges, stoked outrage on social media and renewed calls for reforms in law enforcement.


The Guardian December 2017 How white engineers built racist code – and why it’s dangerous for black people 

Experts such as Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, think that facial recognition software has problems recognizing black faces because its algorithms are usually written by white engineers who dominate the technology sector. These engineers build on pre-existing code libraries, typically written by other white engineers.


As the coder constructs the algorithms, they focus on facial features that may be more visible in one race, but not another. These considerations can stem from previous research on facial recognition techniques and practices, which may have its own biases, or the engineer’s own experiences and understanding. The code that results is geared to focus on white faces, and mostly tested on white subjects.


NY Times December 2017 ‘Intelligent’ Policing and My Innocent Children

If the police have discriminated in the past, predictive technology reinforces and perpetuates the problem, sending more officers after people who we know are already targeted and unfairly treated, given recent evidence like the Justice Department’s reports on Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, and the findings of the San Francisco Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency Accountability and Fairness in Law Enforcement.


HuffPost November 2017 Rep. Bass, Who Pressed Sessions On Black ‘Extremist’ Label, Wants FBI Report Trashed

Bass questioned Sessions about the FBI intelligence report titled “Black Identity Extremists Likely Motivated to Target Law Enforcement Officers” during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. The Aug. 3 report stated that it was “very likely” that “perceptions of unjust treatment of African Americans and the perceived unchallenged illegitimate actions of law enforcement will inspire premeditated attacks against law enforcement over the next year.”


Under Bass’s questioning, Sessions said that he knew of African-American groups that had “an extraordinary commitment to their racial identity,” some of which had “transformed themselves… into violent activists.” Sessions said he hadn’t read the FBI report but would be interested in reading it. He said the FBI usually does an “excellent job” on the reports, which he said were typically “objective and fair.” Sessions said the Justice Department “would not unlawfully target people.”

report released last week from the USSC ― an independent agency of the U.S. judicial branch ― looked at federal prison sentences in the United States from Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2016, and found that black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than those of “similarly situated” white male offenders.


The commission also factored in offenders’ criminal histories to look at whether violence in offenders’ pasts could account for the racial disparities ― and found that it did not. Looking at 2016, the only year for which such data was available, the commission found that, after controlling for criminal history, black men still received 20.4 percent longer sentences than did white men.


NY Times November 2017 Jay-Z: The Criminal Justice System Stalks Black People Like Meek Mill

This month Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating his probation. #FreeMeek hashtags have sprung up, and hundreds of his fans rallied near City Hall in Philadelphia to protest the ruling.


On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started. But consider this: Meek was around 19 when he was convicted on charges relating to drug and gun possession, and he served an eight-month sentence. Now he’s 30, so he has been on probation for basically his entire adult life. For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside.


What’s happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day. I saw this up close when I was growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s and 1980s. Instead of a second chance, probation ends up being a land mine, with a random misstep bringing consequences greater than the crime. A person on probation can end up in jail over a technical violation like missing a curfew.

Daily Mail November 2017 Black men are given harsher prison terms than white men convicted of the same crime, new study finds

According to the US Sentencing Commission, African-American males serve on average 19.1 percent longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same crime.

The data shows that the disparity can’t be explained by prior convictions or a history of violence.


Foreign Policy October 2017 The FBI’s New U.S. Terrorist Threat: ‘Black Identity Extremists’

“The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence,” reads the report, marked for official use only and obtained by Foreign Policy.

Michael German, a former FBI agent and now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program, said manufacturing this type of threat was not new. He has criticized earlier FBI reports on “black separatists,” arguing that they conflated radical groups operating in the 1970s with attacks in 2010 and later, even though there was no obvious connection.


 Slate October 2017 When Race Tips the Scales in Plea Bargaining

Berdejó analyzed 30,807 misdemeanor cases in Wisconsin over a seven-year period and found that white people facing misdemeanor charges were more than 74 percent more likely than black people to have all charges carrying potential prison time dropped, dismissed, or reduced. And white people with no criminal history were substantially more likely to have charges reduced than black people who had no criminal history.


Mother Jones September 2017 Black Kids Are 5 Times Likelier Than White Kids to Be Locked Up

The gap between black and white juvenile detention grew more than 20 percent from 2001 to 2015, according to the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice advocacy group that crunched the new data in a report out this week. As of 2015, about 44 percent of all kids in custody were black, even though African Americans make up just 16 percent of the total youth population in the United States.

Black kids are more than twice as likely as white kids to be arrested. But that’s not because black kids are committing so many more crimes; the data proves they’re not. Black and white youth are roughly as likely to get into fights, carry weapons, steal property, use and sell illicit substances, and commit status offenses, like skipping school,” the Sentencing Project found in a report last year.


BBC June 2017 Implicit bias: Is everyone racist?

Implicit bias has been used to explain, at least partially, everything from the election of President Donald Trump (implicit bias against his female opponent) and the disproportionate number of unarmed black men who are shot in the US by police.

However, pretty much everything about implicit bias is contentious, including very fundamental questions. For example, there is disagreement about whether these states of mind are really unconscious. Some psychologists believe that at some level we are aware of our prejudices.


Police officers are significantly less respectful and consistently ruder toward black motorists during routine traffic stops than they are toward white drivers, a paper released this week found.

The paper, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, detailed the ways in which footage from body cameras worn by members of the Oakland Police Department in California helped illuminate the disparity in treatment.

The report was written by group of researchers in the psychology, linguistics and computer science departments at Stanford University, including Jennifer Eberhardt, a psychology professor. She said in an interview on Tuesday that it was unlikely that the results were unique to Oakland and that she would expect similar imbalances to show up throughout the United States.


City Journal Summer 2017 Conjuring Disrespect

There is plenty to criticize in the study’s methodology and assumptions. Doing so, however, risks implying that the substantive claims are significant. They are not. Nevertheless, if it were the case that we should worry about whether an officer says “you can” (good) or “can I” (bad) to black drivers, the study leaves out critical components of officer-civilian interactions. The most disrespectful phrase in the disrespect scale is “hands on the wheel.” Black drivers are 29 percent more likely to hear those words than white drivers. Why might an officer ask a driver to put his hands on the wheel? Perhaps because the driver was not complying with an officer’s initial requests or was otherwise belligerent. Yet nothing about driver behavior is included in phase three’s regression analyses—not drivers’ words, demeanor, or actions.


FiveThirtyEight January 2017 U.S. Cities Experienced Another Big Rise In Murder In 2016

Murder almost certainly increased substantially in the U.S. in 2016, one year after it rose at its fastest pace in a quarter century.

The government won’t release official 2016 crime statistics for another nine months. But data from individual police departments indicates that murder rose in most of the country’s biggest cities in 2016, in some cases dramatically. Because a large share of murders take place in big cities, a substantial increase there means that the country’s overall murder total almost certainly rose as well.1


 HuffPost October 2016  18 Examples Of Racism In The Criminal Legal System

1. Police Stops

Who is stopped by the police, either in cars or on foot, continues to be highly racialized as proof of racial profiling continues to accumulate. University of Kansas professors found the police conducted investigatory stops of African American males at twice the rate of whites. A black man in Kansas City, 25 or younger, has a 28 percent chance of being stopped, while a similar white male has only a 12 percent chance.

In New York City, police continue to stop Black and Hispanics at rates far higher than whites even though they are stopping many less people due to a successful civil rights federal court challenge by the Center for Constitutional Rights. One of the most illuminating studies is in Connecticut which showed racial disparities in traffic stops during the daytime, when the race of the driver can be seen, but not at night.

2. Police Searches

Once stopped, during traffic stops, 3 times as many Black and Hispanic drivers were searched as white drivers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. According to the same U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, white drivers were also given tickets at a slightly lower rate than Black and Hispanic drivers.


Etc September 2016 How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence

… the focus on racial disparity accepts the premise of neoliberal social justice that the problem of inequality is not its magnitude or intensity in general but whether or not it is distributed in a racially equitable way. To the extent that that is the animating principle of a left politics, it is a politics that lies entirely within neoliberalism’s logic.


HuffPost September 2016 Black Crime Rates: What Happens When Numbers Aren’t Neutral

There is a common conservative narrative that indicates the disproportionate incarceration of black people is not the result of systemic racism, but rather of shortcomings within the black community.

It is also common to hear the supposedly neutral statement that “black people commit more crimes than white people.” This “fact” is used to justify a belief that black people have a natural criminal propensity, or that a “culture of violence” is to blame for problems faced by black people in America.

Black people make up roughly 13% of the United States population, and white people make up 64%. Black people make up 40% of the prison population, and white people 39%. Therefore, even though there are roughly five times as many white people as black people in this country, blacks and whites are incarcerated in equal numbers. But the fact that black people are incarcerated five times as frequently as white people does not mean black people commit five times as many crimes.



ProPublic May 2016 Machine Bias

In forecasting who would re-offend, the algorithm made mistakes with black and white defendants at roughly the same rate but in very different ways.

  • The formula was particularly likely to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals, wrongly labeling them this way at almost twice the rate as white defendants.

  • White defendants were mislabeled as low risk more often than black defendants.


Washington Post February 2016  Researchers have discovered a new and surprising racial bias in the criminal justice system

recent report by two sociologists showed that white federal judges are about four times more likely to dismiss race discrimination cases outright. Another analysis found that they are half as likely as black federal judges to rule in favor of people alleging racial harassment in the workplace.


But in criminal cases, the evidence has been blurrier. Just because black judges might understand more about the black experience doesn’t mean that they’re more sympathetic toward black criminals. In fact, a surprising new study shows that judges in Louisiana — white or black — actually give longer sentences to juvenile offenders of their own race.


Slate October 2015 The FBI Has Data on Police Violence. It’s Just Disastrously Incomplete and Unreliable

In an article published Thursday based on a cache of raw FBI data covering the 10-year period between 2004 and 2014, the Guardian confirmed that the federal government’s system for tracking police killings is profoundly inadequate. According to the article, only 224 out of the nation’s 18,000 police departments reported any incidents involving their officers killing people during the year 2014. Those departments reported a total of 439 justifiable homicides for the year. But that number is almost certainly very low given that the the Guardian’s own, independent count of police killings has already tracked 900 incidents—justifiable and otherwise—over the past nine and a half months.


The Guardian October 2015 Eric Garner and Tamir Rice among those missing from FBI record of police killings

A review of data collected over the years by the FBI showed that high-profile homicides in which officers were found to be at fault were not recorded or were logged inconsistently. Problems stem from the fact that only one of the FBI’s 32 classifications for all homicides – which are precise enough to include “child killed by babysitter” and homicides linked to gambling – makes reference to the person who carried out the homicide being a police officer. This classification, “felon killed by police”, is automatically counted as a justifiable homicide.


Slate August 2015 What It’s Like to Be Black in the Criminal Justice System

Blacks are more likely to…

  1. … have their cars searched
  2. … be arrested for drug use
  3. … be jailed while awaiting trial
  4. … be offered a plea deal that includes prison time
  5. … be excluded from juries because of their race
  6. … more likely to serve longer sentences than white Americans for the same offense
  7. … more likely to be disenfranchised because of a felony conviction
  8. … more likely to have their probation revoked


June 2015 Guardian Don’t believe the fictitious crime trends used to undermine police reform

The causal link underlying the “Ferguson effect” is unfounded, as any honest social scientist will tell you. Given the complexity of identifying short-term crime trends and of determining reliable causal antecedents – even with decades of hindsight and troves of big data, which is certainly not the case here – the idea that we could observe a “Ferguson effect” on crime today is preposterous. One need only glance at the voluminousscientificcontroversy surrounding the massive crime drop since the early 1990s in the United States and Canada to understand this perfectly.

The point of the “Ferguson effect,” though, is not to be accurate. It is instead to distract us from the growing evidence about the magnitude and extent of police use of lethal violence in the United States – as powerfully documented just this week by The Guardian and the Washington Post – and to besmirch the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

May 2015 Wall Stret Journal The New Nationwide Crime Wave

The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over. Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.



The investigation found:

  • Ninety percent of those charged with assaulting a police officer were black, though black residents make up only half of the city’s population.
  • Nearly two-thirds of those arrested for assaulting an officer weren’t charged with any other crime, raising questions about whether police had legal justification to stop the person.
  • About 1 in 4 people charged with a misdemeanor for assaulting a police officer required medical attention after their arrest, a higher rate than the 1 in 5 officers reporting injury from the interactions.
  • The District uses the charge of assaulting a police officer almost three times more than cities of comparable size, according to a 2013 FBI report and Metropolitan Police Department numbers.
  • Prosecutors declined to press charges in more than 40 percent of the arrests for assaulting an officer.


NY Daily News May 2013 The great stop-and-frisk fraud

That’s where Fagan comes in. The academic was tasked with showing en masse that those 4.4 million stops were made not because the officers suspected that the individuals stopped were engaged in criminal activity, but because most of those individuals were black and Hispanic.

The models he constructed to prove such bias were an apt symbol of the lawsuit itself: wholly detached from the realities of crime and policing in New York.


The New Yorker August 2013 The statistical Debate Behind the Stop-and-Frisk Verdict

In explicitly basing at least part of her ruling on complicated statistical analyses that most ordinary jurors wouldn’t understand, Judge Scheindlin has raised anew the question of what sort of weight should be put on academic testimony in cases of this sort.


Mother Jones August 2013 Race, Lead, and Juvenile Crime

There have been, and still are, lots of potential explanations for the disparity in violent crime rates between black and white teens: the toxic legacy of racism and slavery; poverty rates in inner cities; gang culture; and many more. But as Nevin points out, none of the popular theories explains the dramatic rise and fall of crime over the past 50 years, nor in particular why black crime declined more than white crime starting in the early 90s. That’s because none of the usual suspects has varied dramatically in the past 20 years. Family structure in black households has been largely unchanged; poverty went down but then went back up; and incarceration rates haven’t increased.

But the number of kids with toxic levels of exposure to lead has decreased steadily throughout the entire period, and it decreased far more among black kids than white kids. It’s true that black juvenile crime rates are still higher than white juvenile crime rates, but they’re nowhere near the levels that caused so many people to live in fear in the 70s and 80s. Nevin wishes more people knew about this:


The Unz Review July 2013 Race and Crime in America

… over the last twenty-five years the weighted correlations for each of the crime categories against the percentages of whites, Hispanics, and “immigrants” (i.e. Hispanics-plus-Asians) have fluctuated in the general range of -0.20 to -0.60. Interestingly enough, for most of the last decade the presence of Hispanics and immigrants has become noticeably less associated with crime than the presence of whites, although that latter category obviously exhibits large regional heterogeneity. Meanwhile, in the case of blacks, the weighted crime correlations have steadily risen from 0.60 to around 0.80 or above, almost always now falling within between 0.75 and 0.85


Real Clear Politics April 2012 Five Myths of the ‘Racist’ Criminal Justice System

1) Blacks are arrested at higher rates compared to whites — but wrongly so.

Not true.


2) Blacks are convicted at higher rates and given longer sentences than whites for the same crime.

Not true.


3) The sentence disparity between powder and crack cocaine is racist and accounts for a large percentage of imprisoned blacks.

Not true.


4) The “War on Drugs” accounts for a large number of blacks behind bars.

Not true.


5) More blacks are in jail than in college.

Not true.

Mother Jones May 2008 Know Your Enemy: Heather Mac Donald

Starting with black crime and not with racism, is always the major flaw in Mac Donald’s work. Still, she remains an opponent to both learn from and take oh so seriously. Thankfully, Mother Jones is among the few progressive organizations which work as hard as Mac Donald does to disprove the notion that blacks have no one to blame but themselves. It’s just that we’re going to need a lot more folks doing work at this level to drown out the Mac Donalds.

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