Ron Paul said the following thing in Saturday’s debate:
But, also, I’m the only one up here and the only one in the Democratic Party that understands true racism in this country is in the judicial system. And it has to do with enforcing the drug laws.
Look at the percentages. The percentage of people who use drugs are about the same with blacks and whites. And yet the blacks are arrested way disproportionately. They’re — they’re prosecuted and imprisoned way disproportionately. They get — they get the death penalty way disproportionately.
That’s a pretty serious slander on our criminal-justice systems. Do the Paul people have stats to back it up?
Heather Mac Donald, in her recent book, book (p.19), tells us that “Imprisonment rate for blacks on drug charges appears consistent with the level of drug activity in the black population.” If the Paulines can prove her wrong, I am sure Heather will offer an apology.
As for death-penalty discrepancies, one would like to see the variables properly addressed. A couple: Are “stranger” murders are more likely to get the death penalty than murders among family or acquaintances, and are blacks and whites equally prone to commit “stranger” murders? Are mostly-white jurisdictions (where victims are mostly white) more conservative, and therefore more friendly to the death penalty, than mostly-black jurisdictions (victims mostly black)? It would be good to see a proper rigorous analysis. No doubt the Paul people can provide one.
On the federal level at least, a report by the Clinton Justice Department told us that white defendants are, all else equal, more likely to get the death penalty, at least in federal courts: “The Attorney General approved seeking the death penalty for 38 percent of White defendants, 25 percent of Black defendants, and 20 percent of Hispanic defendants.”
I think I’m probably friendlier to Ron Paul than any other commentator on this site; but the congressman is a libertarian ideologue, and when ideology — in this case the libertarian sub-ideology of blanket drug legalization — comes in at the door, respect for facts and numbers flies out the window.