National Review Online contributor Heather Mac Donald falsely said there is no evidence “that the overrepresentation of blacks in prison or arrest statistics is a result of criminal justice racism,” while on NBC's Meet the Press. In fact, studies have found “conclusively” that disproportionate incarceration for African Americans is attributed to “racial bias.”
Mac Donald has a history of racially inflammatory comments, including claiming that young African-American males have a "lack of self-discipline"; that it is “common sense that black students are more likely to be disruptive” than white students; and that black men possess a “lack of impulse control that results in ... mindless violence on the streets.”
Still, the August 17 edition of Meet the Press turned to Mac Donald to discuss fallout from the fatal shooting of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO. In a taped segment, Deadspin.com's Greg Howard argued that “It's physically easier for a police officer to weigh what a black man's life is worth and to end up feeling that he is justified in pulling the trigger.” Mac Donald was then presented as a counterpoint, to claim there is no evidence of racial bias in the criminal justice system:
MAC DONALD: The criminology profession has been trying for decades to prove that the overrepresentation of blacks in prison or in arrest statistics is a result of criminal justice racism. It is black crime rates that predict the presence of blacks in the criminal justice system, not some miscarriage of justice.
Due to a lack of information from local authorities it is still unclear what, if any, crime the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown believed Brown was committing, and whether such use of force was a necessary or appropriate response. However, research indicates that nationally, African-Americans are arrested and incarnated at rates that cannot be explained by crime rates.
For example, a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union found that even though African-Americans and whites use marijuana at approximately the same rate, African-Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. ACLU found that in some communities, African-Americans were arrested for possession 30 times more often.
Research from Human Rights Watch also found that African-Americans were disproportionately arrested on drug charges “in every year from 1980 through 2007”:
The trend holds true for juvenile arrests as well. According to Rebuild the Dream President Van Jones, Department of Justice statistics indicate that “African American youth arrest rates for drug violations, assaults and weapon offenses are higher than arrest rates for white youth -- even though both report similar rates of delinquency.”
Numerous studies have found that African-Americans are sentenced to longer prison terms compared to whites when committing the same crime. According to a 2012 study by law professors at University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, and Harvard University, the sentencing discrepancies can “conclusively” be attributed to “racial bias.”