Seth Ackerman on his blog:
I remembered finding something surprising in the U.S. stats when I looked at them a while ago. It turns out that the smallest racial disparities in U.S. imprisonment rates are in the Deep South, while the largest are in states like New Jersey and Connecticut. Not quite what you'd expect, right?
What to make of that surprising fact? I have no problem believing that the New Jersey and Connecticut justice systems are racist. What I find hard to believe is that those in Alabama and Mississippi are far less racist.
So after looking at the French numbers, I decided to do a little statistical analysis. I found that the degree of racial disparity in U.S. states' incarceration rates is almost entirely a function of how low the white rate is. It's completely unrelated to how high the black rate is. (R-squared is 54% for the white rate, 5% for the black rate.)
Racial disparity in overall incarceration, it seems, is a pretty useless way to measure the bias of a criminal justice system. What seems to be the case, rather, is that the more punitive a justice system gets, the more the experience of incarceration starts to affect people outside the very lowest ranks of society.
The result is a paradox: the higher a state's overall incarceration rate, the smaller the racial disparity.
Read the rest here.