Anyone that watched that farce last week called an impeachment shouldn’t continue to wonder why the criminal justice system has been broken for so long. The hearings made it clear what the poor and people of color have known all their lives – the system is rigged towards those with power, wealth, and influence. In this case, the defendant was none other then the President of the United States. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that the outcome would have been different if the parties were reversed. The Democrats were no more likely to convict a member of their own party than the Republicans were.
Don’t fall prey to the clamor of “they could have at least made it look like a fair trial” by calling witnesses. I prefer the fact that they didn’t insult our intelligence and lay bare the harsh reality that when the fix is in, it really doesn’t matter. What was even more comical was that they rolled out Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to preside over this charade. Although the veil is being pierced by recent criminal justice reform legislation some key findings from the Sentencing Project report find that:
- African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1.
- In twelve states, more than half of the prison population is Black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Maryland, whose prison population is 72% African American, tops the nation.
- In eleven states, at least 1 in 20 adult Black males is in prison.
- In Oklahoma, the state with the highest overall Black incarceration rate, 1 in 15 black males ages 18 and older is in prison.
- States exhibit substantial variation in the range of racial disparity, from a black/white ratio of 12.2:1 in New Jersey to 2.4:1 in Hawaii.
- Latinos are imprisoned at a rate that is 1.4 times the rate of whites. Hispanic/white ethnic disparities are particularly high in states such as Massachusetts (4.3:1), Connecticut (3.9:1), Pennsylvania (3.3:1), and New York (3.1:1).
The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, by Jeffrey Reiman, “examines the processes by which our prisons and jails come to be predominately occupied by those from the lowest social and economic classes. Having argued … that the criminal law fails to prohibit many serious harms done by the powerful, we now argue that the Criminal Justice System ‘weeds out the wealthy’ and functions in such a way that the poor are 1.) more likely to be arrested 2.) more likely to be charged 3.) more likely to be convicted and 4.) more likely to be sentenced to longer prison sentences than members of middle and upper classes.”
The bottom line is that for decades the under-served have pleaded their case that the “rule of law” only existed for those who could afford it and that lady justice was peeking from behind her blindfold. On the grandest stage of all, with the whole world watching, reality was laid bare that power, influence, and wealth trumps the rule of law….pun intended.