Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants asked Harvard researchers to “take a hard look at how we can better fulfill our promise to provide equal justice for every litigant.”
Harvard researchers collected data from nearly every government agency in the state’s criminal justice system, examined them, and researched the slanted outcomes to reach the conclusion that we Black people already knew.
Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program found that Black and Latino defendants in the state received more severe charges, harsher sentences, and less favorable outcomes than their white compeers did for the same “crimes.”
Harvard examined more than a million cases. Taking note of events from the initial charges through to the convictions and sentencing. The disparities they discovered were mind blowing!
“White people make up roughly 74% of the Massachusetts population while accounting for 58.7% of cases in our data,” the study explained. “Meanwhile, Black people make up just 6.5% of the Massachusetts population and account for 17.1% of cases.”
The Harvard research team concluded that those numbers are the result of a justice system that treats Black and Latino people unfairly on every level.
The study also found the average White felon in the state has committed a more severe crime than the average Black inmate.
From the street to the court room, the so called justice system discriminates against Blacks and Latinos. The police are more likely to stop, search, and investigate Black and Latino drivers. Black and Latino suspects are given charges that carry harsher penalties and are less likely to be offered a plea deal or pre-trial intervention. In the court room, judges sentence Black and Latino defendants to longer sentences.
Researchers considered poverty rates, family structure of the convicted felons, and the neighborhoods they lived in. Eventually, they concluded that systemic racism was the only explanation.
Initially, the researchers assumed that Black suspects commit worse crimes than white suspects, resulting in the disparities in charges.
However, their data disproved that assumption. They also thought prosecutors may be overzealous when it came to convicting violent cases but the data debunked that hypothesis as well.
When they looked at convictions however, they found Black people were less likely to be convicted than white people. Why?
The researchers concluded that a white person has to have done something blatantly horrific in order to be charged, while a Black person just has to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.