A body was found early this week next to a dumpster behind a strip mall off Fish Hatchery Road and Post Road, a troubled area just off Madison's south side in Fitchburg. The victim was a boy aged 16. The victim had a name: Lorenzo McKittrick. The coroner says homicide.
The boy probably has a race. The census enumerators out and about these days have many checkboxes from which to choose. Someday that archaic and useless classification will be discontinued. I'm not a census enumerator. Lorenzo McKittrick's race makes no difference to me. Nor does the race of his killer, which probably did not make a lot of difference to dead Lorenzo, either.
But it is of critical importance to the Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System. The Task Force has built an 82-page report around racial identity. It is a race-based report. Not a conduct-based report. Not a content of your character report.
The Task Force has thrown up 80 policy recommendations based on race. Skin color. Pigmentation. Who you are is what you look like. Identity politics run wild. The stuff that makes tenure at the UW Sociology Department.
The Task Force wants racial quotas in the criminal justice system. Too many of one race being arrested and incarcerated. Or is it not enough of another race? In any event, got to make the numbers match up.
Got to do racial impact studies next time we pass a law. Got to make sure we have still more diversion programs to keep still more lawbreakers out of jail. Test employers to make sure they're not discriminating against ex-cons. Don't revoke drivers' licenses for scofflaw dads. More racial minorities in the D.A.'s office and in police departments. Increase the racial bean counting. Make sure "communities of color" know their civil rights. More social workers. More spending.
Not all of its recommendations are bad. Yes to more job opportunities -- so let's not sneer at those entry level jobs. Sure, more mental health services would be good. But Dane County is already the most service-rich county in the state. Yes to restorative justice.
For all that, how does the Task Force prevent 16-year-olds from being found dead next to dumpsters? It doesn't. How does it make our communities safer? Not its purpose. Its purpose is to reduce the arrest/incarceration rate for certain ethnic and racial groups. Not so much by demanding accountability but by changing the rules. Race-based rules. Quotas.
Is this what the neighborhoods have been asking for? Forget about safeguarding our neighborhoods! The people demand that our officials even out the race-based disparities
in the criminal justice system to an error factor of plus + or minus - 0.015.
If this subversion of our criminal justice system succeeds, it will make our communities more dangerous.
'What if racial disparity is a good thing?'
That's not Blaska talking, that is the academic research conclusions of an associate professor of political science at Marquette University named John McAdams in a paper called "Does Wisconsin lock up too many blacks?"
Professor McAdams deconstructed Gov. Jim E. Doyle's Commission on Reducing Racial Disparities in the Wisconsin Justice System. Doyle, the professor notes, "not only asserted that the disparity is real (which it is) but that it is undesirable."
These quotes from the McAdams paper may serve as a precis of his argument and buttress those I made in Tuesday's blog:
It might seem, on first glance, that "racial disparity" - and here the issue is that blacks are jailed and imprisoned at a much higher rate than whites - is a bad thing.
But what if the disparity is the result of the fact that blacks commit more crimes than whites? Looking back at the Governor's charge to the Commission, if it's not established that the disparities are the result of discrimination, how do we know we want to eliminate them?
And what if incarceration in fact serves highly desirable goals of deterring crime and incapacitating the criminals? If so, the Commission is on a fool's errand, instructed to recommend things that will make the quality of life in Wisconsin worse. And particularly worse for black people.
McAdams found that:
- Black and hispanic prisoners in Wisconsin do not serve longer sentences than white prison inmates.
- Blacks are more likely to be imprisoned for property crimes, but less likely to be imprisoned for violent crimes.
- Blacks are less likely to be sent to prison for a first offense. While 48.2% of white prison admissions were of an inmate who had no prior felony convictions, only 37.5% of black prison admissions were.
And what of the victims of crime, of which the Dane County Task Force has very little to say? Professor McAdams meets that challenge head on:
In Milwaukee (and this is true everywhere) the vast majority of the victims of black offenders are themselves black. Of attacks by black offenders, 73 percent were committed against black victims. If we average the table the other way, we find that 97 percent of all violent crimes against black victims are perpetrated by blacks.
Failure to lock up violent black criminals hurts whites only marginally (and for those in the further out suburbs, barely at all). It especially hurts blacks.
"No, it's not right, it's not fair." -- Reaction of the family of the teenaged shooter of 17-year-old Karamee Collins Jr. to his life sentence for first-degree murder.
A cross-section of Dane County?
The Kathleen and Chairman Scott McDonell have appointed nine citizens good and true to implement the race-based proposals of the Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System. Its nine members are a veritable cross-section of Dane County life. Nay, all of America. Here is the implementation team:
Kaleem Caire, Urban League of Greater Madison
Dr. Algernon Felice, psychologist, Diversity Contact
Rev. Jerry Hancock, Prison Ministry Project
Richard Harris, Vision Beyond Bars, Inc.
Celia Jackson, Department of Licensing and Regulation
Tiffany Keogh, State of Wisconsin
Joseph Maldonado, Madison Area Technical College
Lucia Nunez, City of Madison, Department of Civil Rights
Sheila Stubbs, Dane County Board
A couple of these folks may be white. Not that race matters to the blog but it does to the Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System. And, obviously, to The Kathleen and Chairman Scott.
Can you find the law and order guy on this team? Maldonado's LinkedIn site reads:
"Specialization lies in twentieth and twenty-first century African American and Latin American History, Music, and Culture and Black/Latino relations. Currently teaching incarcerated populations, providing job searching opportunities, computer literacy and interpersonal skills."
Tiffany Keogh, "State of Wisconsin," appears not to have a state government e-mail address. LinkedIn offers this:
Beauty Consultant, The AVON Booth
(Cue Billy Crystal's Fernando Lamas: "It is so much better to look good.")
This Richard Harris is not the Brit actor and MacArthur Park singer. Not that that old boozer was a role model, either. This Richard Harris lists his favorite music as hip hop: 2Pac: Me Against The World, Thug Life, All Eyez On Me. "Thug Life?"