Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System?

Thoughts on how to report news of a study that might fan the flames of hatred.

Just by its subject line, the email changed my day and my outlook on my responsibilities as a journalist.

Because I contribute to Scientific American and Discover magazines, I receive embargoed press releases from a variety of scholarly journals. (An “embargoed” release is sent to journalists who have promised in writing not to disclose the release’s contents until after a certain date.)

This particular email came about a week ago. It announced the results of a study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. “No Evidence of Racial Discrimination in Criminal Justice Processing: Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health” was its title. Got that? The claim was that a large, national study found no evidence of discrimination in the criminal justice system.

But we all know that America’s prisons are filled disproportionately with African American men. The received wisdom is that, from arrest through conviction, the odds are stacked against them. Cops, prosecutors, judges, and juries don’t like them, or so we “know.”

Intrigued, I had the full text sent to me.

Indeed, investigators at seven prestigious universities—six in America and one in Saudi Arabia—had together examined data collected in waves over 14 years in America. In 1994 and 1995 about 90,000 middle school and high school boys and girls were surveyed.....

No comments:

Post a Comment