Press Release

New Report on Racial Disparities in Policing and Crime from The Sentencing Project

Report finds that large policing footprint is not solving the disproportionate impact of violent crime on communities of color; racial disparities persist in arrests for drug law violations and minor traffic stops.

Related to: Racial Justice

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, The Sentencing Project released a new report, “One in Five: Disparities in Crime and Policing,” which interrogates the large footprint of policing—particularly of Black Americans— as a failed response to racial disparities in serious crimes. The report also provides recommendations for right-sizing policing in the United States. The report is the latest in The Sentencing Project’s “One in Five” series examining racial inequities in America’s criminal legal system.

“This report demonstrates that a high volume of police contact fails to address the higher rates of serious violent offending and victimization among communities of color. In fact, it sometimes exacerbates these problems by reducing trust in law enforcement and diverting resources that could be better invested in communities,” said Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Co-Director of Research with The Sentencing Project and co-author of the report. “To meaningfully tackle disparities in serious crime, policymakers need to make investments in interventions outside of policing, and end the harms of excessive police contact.”

Specifically, this report finds:

  • Police officers’ reliance on millions of minor traffic stops annually as a pretext to investigate drivers for criminal activity disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx drivers. Among those they pull over, police are more likely to search Black (6.2%) and Latinx drivers (9.2%) than whites (3.6%). But police are often less likely to find drugs or weapons among the Black and Latinx drivers that they search, compared to whites.
  • Black and white Americans use illicit drugs at roughly similar rates, but about one in four people arrested for drug law violations are Black, although Black people make up 14% of the U.S. population.
  • Black Americans were 9.3 times as likely as whites to be homicide victims in 2020, American Indians were 4.3 times as likely, and Latinxs were 1.9 times as likely, based on age-adjusted figures. Since homicide is generally an intra-racial crime, these figures correspond to higher rates of homicide offending among these communities of color, which is attributable to spatially-concentrated urban poverty resulting from longstanding and ongoing segregation, discrimination, and disinvestment.

The report recommends right-sizing policing through reforms such as decriminalizing and legalizing drug use and removing police from non-public safety traffic stops and instead investing in universal access to effective drug treatment and community-based violence prevention programs.

Click here to read the full report.

The first report in the “One in Five” series presented an overview of incarceration and supervision trends.  Subsequent reports in the series will focus on:

  • Three key drivers of disparity from within the criminal legal system addressed by promising reforms from dozens of jurisdictions around the country. Release date: December 2023
  • Criminal legal policies that jeopardize public safety by exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and the reforms that correct this final source of injustice. Release date: January 2024

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