While criticism is rampant about the fact that the nation’s police force comprises mainly of white individuals, the reality is that the legal profession is even whiter.
Prosecutors in the legal system get to decide what the charges will be and whether a plea bargain should be offered or whether the case should go on trial. They have the liberty to exercise their power with impunity and outside of public view but the recent high-profile police killings of black males (including John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott), white prosecutors have suddenly come into focus. They have been found to be reluctant in pursuing indictments. Major publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Talking Points Memo present reports that conclude that police officers who kill roughly 1000 people each year are never charged.
A study of the New York County district attorney’s office shows that black defendants are 19 percent more likely than white defednants to be offered plea deals that include jail time. Similarly, black defendants charged with misdeameanor offense or drug related charges are more likely to be held in jail or prison at their arraignment as compared to white people. No wonder over half of the prison population in the US comprises of African Americans and Hispanics.
Approximately 75 percent of prosecutors at the New York District County attorney’s office are white and 10 percent are black. Only 6 percent of black attorneys are in supervisory positions.
The lack of diversity in the country’s legal system is having discriminatory consequences. Another study shows evidence of racial discrimination in jury selection in every southern state. In fact, the study found evidence that some state and local prosecutors were specially trained to exclude people on the basis of race and were also trained on how to conceal their racial bias.
As former National Black Prosecutors Association president Bruce Brown put it: “When you have African Americans in the room making decisions, challenging decisions, folks are forced to look at the motives behind what they’re doing, and it’s not until all those motives are questioned that we make sure that our system is working, not only effectively, but also efficiently and fairly for everyone involved.”