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Opinion | Criminal Justice Is a State Issue

As a 2020 report by the Death Penalty Information Center (D.P.I.C.) pointed out:

“In Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Tennessee between 1945 and 1965, 823 African-American men were convicted of rape, and 13 percent were sentenced to death. During the same time period, 442 white men were convicted of rape, and only 2 percent were sentenced to death. The same disparities were seen in executions. Between 1930 and 1972, 455 men were executed for rape across the U.S. Four hundred and five, or 89.1 percent, were African-American.”

The report continued: “The vast majority (443) of these executions occurred in former Confederate states. An examination of death sentencing for rape in Texas between 1924 and 1972 concluded that ‘when a Black offender was convicted of raping a white woman, he was virtually assured of a death sentence.’”

This also appeared to be the case in Virginia. As the D.P.I.C. found: “From 1900 until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1977 for crimes in which no one was killed, Virginia executed 73 Black defendants for rape, attempted rape, or armed robbery that did not result in death, while no White defendants were executed for those crimes.”

The group also notes that, “In the modern era of capital punishment, Virginia has executed a higher percentage of its death-row prisoners than any other state.”

And none of this says anything of the shocking number of exonerations of people on death row, which suggests that many others who are also innocent but don’t have access to good lawyers are killed by the state.

The death penalty has disproportionately been used as a weapon against Black men — often under the guise of defending white women — and became a more sanctioned and more orderly form of lynching.

Not only is it barbaric, it is biased.

The social justice position on criminal justice isn’t only that the system is constructed in destructively punitive ways, but also that there is inherent racial inequality in the way laws are applied.

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