We are a society that is governed by data and statistics. Government funding is based on this data: where we send our children to school, where we live, and who we vote for, are all based on data and statistics.
We should be outraged over statistics that represent the disproportionate over-representation of minorities in criminal justice. Racial and ethnic minority groups are over-represented in all levels of the criminal justice system. Over-representation occurs when a greater percentage of a particular racial or demographic group is within a community's criminal justice population.
The Department of Corrections (DOC) is more and more a commonly used acronym to refer to disproportionate minority confinement. There is a tendency to emphasize either differential treatment by the criminal justice system, or differential involvement in crimes. Both theories can be supported.
There have been debates on whether disparities in incarceration were caused by differential involvement of minorities in crime, or whether the disparities were the result of discrimination. I believe there is some truth in both theories. Some of the biases in the criminal justice system that targets minorities are the war on drugs, racial profiling, and judicial discretion.
There is a disproportionate involvement of minorities in criminal activities. Some of the causes of this involvement are extreme economic deprivation, and community characteristics that include the presence of drugs and gangs. Both sides of the issue need to be addressed and not ignored any longer.
Disproportionate over-representation of minorities in criminal justice is destroying our community. In the state of Oklahoma, African Americans represent 7 percent of the total population yet 35 percent of the prison population. There are more young black men between the ages of 18 and 25 in prison than in colleges in the state of Oklahoma. It costs more to incarcerate some of them than it would cost to send the individuals to college.
It is time to be outraged over this issue and find a solution so something can be done before it is too late.
Reginald Hines, Deputy Director
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Division of Community Corrections