Is The Criminal Justice System Racist?


The news that Virginia has performed it's first execution in two years got me thinking about a topic that seemingly fallen off the radar this season--criminal justice reform. The death penalty, sadly, seems here to stay. But one of the reasons I so emphatically fell for Jim Webb (before Kathy took him apart) was because in addition to being outspoken about veterans issues, he's probably the most prominent senator i've heard speak on reforming our prisons. I could be wrong on that, and would love to be corrected. That said, I have heard very little about this issue out on the campaign trail. Frankly, this is as it should be--you don't win elections by talking about shortening the sentences of criminals. Still, I hope this issue is a priority, should Obama win.

Indeed, to me, one of the promises of an Obama administration would be that he could (hopefully) deracialize certain issues that really occur to me as matters of basic fairness and justice. Heather Macdonald has had a field day dismantling those who claim that the criminal justice is racist. But I think that's a strawman. Frankly, I don't much care about whether the law was intended to hurt black people, nor do I care whether it's called racist or not. To the extent that the "racist" label is a distraction, it should be jettisoned. It seems like the real question should be, Does our drug policy make sense? Are we helping or hurting the situation in our inner cities?