Patterico's Pontifications

10/2/2021

Constitutional Vanguard: David French Cites Weak Evidence to Show Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:44 pm



This is an epic one that I have been working on all week. It might be hard to digest in one sitting, but I nevertheless decided to put it all in one post/email because it is mostly a cohesive whole. Excerpt:

I can’t end this newsletter without commenting on French’s description of Alice Johnson:

I’ll be honest, I’ve got a bit of a personal connection to this conversation, a connection that I’d never had before. In 2019 my wife was blessed to work with Alice Johnson on her autobiography, After Life. Johnson, readers may remember, was a first-time drug offender who was sentenced to life in prison at the height of the war on drugs. Donald Trump granted her clemency (and later pardoned her) after Kim Kardashian pleaded her case in the White House. It was one of Trump’s best moments in office.

Alice stayed at our house for a short time while she finished her book, and our conversations helped teach me that there is a tremendous need for an interfaith, cross-partisan coalition of Americans who can see that crime imposes real costs on communities, while also understanding that vengeance and mass incarceration is toxic to the culture and soul of a nation.

The description of Alice Johnson as a “first-time drug offender”—with literally no other description of her crimes—is a rather remarkable whitewashing. I had never looked at Johnson’s case before, having swallowed the propaganda about her being a first-time offender who made “one mistake”—until I ran across a description of her case in a book I am reading titled Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, by Michael Bender:

Johnson had spent more than two decades behind bars after running a multimillion-dollar cocaine operation with ties to a Colombian drug cartel.

Whoa. That’s a bit more than being a “first-time drug offender,” isn’t it?

Click through for a substantive romp through links provided by French to argue that there are racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Read it here. Subscribe here.

21 Responses to “Constitutional Vanguard: David French Cites Weak Evidence to Show Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System”

  1. Along those lines is the problem of the left saying that those convicted of simple possession ought to be released and their records expunged. Trouble is, many of those convictions were plea bargain deals, in which a dealer was allowed to plead to a lesser crime due to lazy prosecutors.

    The libertarian, but not Libertarian, Dana (fcc309)

  2. Interesting article. I’m afraid I don’t have the brain power right now to interact with anything complex (this school year. I can’t even…), but I wanted to leave a comment to let you know it was read and appreciated.

    Nic (896fdf)

  3. I read the whole thing. Thank you for taking the time to chase link after link to see what the actual evidence was.

    My conclusion: David French is a good guy who seeks common ground on difficult issues. His heart got the best of his reason on this topic.

    And thank you for enlightening me on yet another Trump “accomplishment” that wasn’t so accomplished.

    norcal (b9a35f)

  4. joe biden won az, ga. and wi. by 43,000 votes combined. The democrat party used laws passed in those three states by republican legislatures to keep the libertarian party off the ballot to jick the green party off the ballot unlike 2016 when the green party had ballot accesses. The 8 million more votes biden got were meaningless as the 3 million more votes hillary got.

    asset (482bb9)

  5. Yeah “first-time drug offender” certainly misleads….and misses the context of the scope and duration of her activities. Now I agree that her sentence of life in prison was excessive….and clearly French’s soft touch was colored by his clear affection for the woman….but French’s anecdote tends to distract away from all of the damage dumping a buch of cocaine into a community does — the crime it causes for people to buy it and the crimes they commit when on it, the broken families caused by substance abuse, the lost jobs, and the amount of money that could have been used for more productive purposes in the neighborhood. We tend to grossly over-estimate and romanticize the entrepreneurial and hustling aspect of it (cue The Wire)….and minimize the parasite and predatory reality. I applaud Johnson’s redemption and French’s Christian support….and acknowledge that French was speaking more as a friend than as a careful journalist….but the prosecutors of Johnson’s case deserved more here.

    Now in terms of the rest of your piece….which was excellent…and why I followed you here from RedState…I think you missed your calling as a sociologist. The bottom line, as you’ve discussed before, is that blacks commit more crime which leads to more policing, arrests, convictions, and the appearance of bias in the criminal justice system. I suspect that the enterprising liberal sociologist will respond that there are societal feedback loops that explain the disproportionate criminality — broken homes from incarcerated parents, lost wages, fewer employment opportunites, crummy schools, worst health care…..essentially, desperate situations lead to desperate…and poor….choices….and that something new should be tried.

    I too differ with French on this conclusion…..though I’m not knee-deep in the statistical trenches and can appreciate the complexity of social policy. But incentives matter. And if you decrease the cost of crime, you will get more crime. If Chicago blacks are being killed at record levels with very few (relative) clearances, then you will get more of it. What needs to happen….and where Obama missed his greatest opportunity….is the resurrection of shame…..and acknowledging that it all gets back to family structure and not rationalizing bad behavior. That should be the one resounding theme in poor ethnic communities….not Critical Race Theory….not Black Lives Matter (though they do too)….not anti-policing….not reparations….and not excusing criminality by throwing open the jail doors (criminal justice reform). Inner city culture has to change…..French’s prescription is the Ivermectin of social policy…..

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  6. Johnson had spent more than two decades behind bars after running a multimillion-dollar cocaine operation with ties to a Colombian drug cartel.

    Whoa. That’s a bit more than being a “first-time drug offender,” isn’t it?

    But that was her first, and only, conviction.

    I think if you want to find some mitigating factor, it might be that someone else got her into it. But I don’t know if that is true.

    Wikipedia (which is very careful about anything derogatory in biographies of living persons) says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Marie_Johnson

    …At the time of her arrest, she was a single mother of five children.[5]

    Johnson told Mic in 2017 that she had become involved in the drug trade after she had lost her job at FedEx, where she had worked for ten years, due to a gambling addiction; this was followed by a divorce and the loss of her youngest son in a motorcycle accident.[6] She filed for bankruptcy in 1991, and foreclosure of her house followed.[7]

    Johnson was arrested in 1993 and convicted in 1996 of eight federal criminal counts relating to her involvement in a Memphis, Tennessee-based cocaine trafficking organization.[5] In addition to drug conspiracy counts, she was convicted of money laundering and structuring, the latter crime because of her purchase of a house with a down payment structured to avoid hitting a $10,000 reporting threshold.[5] The Memphis operation involved over a dozen individuals.[8] The indictment, which named 16 defendants,[9] described her as a leader in a multi-million dollar cocaine ring, and detailed dozens of drug transactions and deliveries.[10] Evidence presented at trial showed that the Memphis operation was connected to Colombian drug dealers based in Texas.[11] She was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in 1997. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Julia Gibbons said that Johnson was “the quintessential entrepreneur” in an operation that dealt in 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms of cocaine, with a “very significant” impact on the community.[11] Co-defendants Curtis McDonald and Jerlean McNeil were sentenced to life and 19 years in federal prison, respectively.[11] A number of other co-defendants who testified against Johnson received sentences between probation and 10 years.[5] Following her conviction, Johnson acknowledged that she was an intermediary in the drug trafficking organization, but said she did not actually make deals or sell drugs.[12]

    So she goes, in one year, from losing her house (?) to foreclosure, to being a major figure in a multi-million dollar cocaine ring.

    Sounds like she was set up to take the rap, if the scheme was stopped, and it also sounds like she never named Mr. Big. Her value to the organization was precisely that she had no prior convictions. Plus office skills. Her lack of prior convictions didn’t prevent them from being caught so that was kind of like a failed experiment.

    Sammy Finkelman (b434ee)

  7. Great article and I really appreciate how you address the question of “how pervasive is institutional racism is really in the US?” Addressing that question faces the headwind of disparate impact and your article here superbly cut through that.

    Well done!

    whembly (7e0293)

  8. The orange trot ruffle would have seriously impressed me if he had commuted Lisa Montgomery’s death sentence. But I do sincerely appreciate the social benefit conferred by Kim Kardashian’s butt.

    There is no reason to punish women as harshly as men. Women, as a group, do not commit so many or so serious crimes as to pose a danger to the state or to the social order. One might even say that they are the reason for the existence of the state and the social order. Everything men do, they do for or because of women.

    And I did read the entire article. Very well done, Patterico! I have been calling SCOTUS “the 5-4” for a while, and now I wonder if I had not picked it up from Brennan some time and remember it only subconsciously.

    Race is the low-hanging fruit of the season. It is also a facile way to avoid facing all the real problems of our “kind and usual punishment”.

    nk (1d9030)

  9. Though my ‘handle’ is the libertarian, but not Libertarian, Dana, recreational pharmaceuticals is where I depart, for one reason, and one reason only. My darling bride — of 42 years, 4 months, and 14 days — was a pediatric hunrse, and she has told me, many times, that she has never seen a case of child abuse — and they have to be hospitalization-serious enough for her to have seen them — in which drug and/or, usually and, alcohol abuse was not a factor. Since the vast majority of adults wind up, at some point, responsible for the care of children, legalizing drugs is a huge risk factor.

    My home state of Kentucky leads the nation in one unfortunate category: we have the highest percentage of children being reared not by their parents but their grandparents, and drug addiction is almost always the reason for this. My nephew, who used to be an EMT in Lee County, Kentucky, has told me that the majority of his calls were for drug overdoses or other drug related problems.

    Were God to tap me on the shoulder and say, “OK, Dana, you get my power to change one thing,” I wouldn’t hesitate in my action: I would change the human brain to be immune to the effects of recreational drugs and alcohol.

    The libertarian, but not Libertarian, Dana (fcc309)

  10. The esteemed Mr French wrote:

    while also understanding that vengeance and mass incarceration is toxic to the culture and soul of a nation.

    Mass incarceration is not the problem; the problem is that not enough people are incarcerated, and that people who are incarcerated are usually not incarcerated for a long enough period of time.

    The libertarian, but not Libertarian, Dana (fcc309)

  11. AJ_Liberty (a4ff25) — 10/3/2021 @ 5:18 am

    French’s anecdote tends to distract away from all of the damage dumping a buch of cocaine into a community does — the crime it causes for people to buy it

    This is one thing that some people avoid mentioning, but it was the reason possession of crack was justifiably treated much more severely than that of cocaine in the 1994 crime bill. Cocane was often bought by people who legitimately, or near legitimately, had access to money, while crack was paid for by STEALING or otherwise preying on people, or perhaps, in the case of many women, prostitution.

    and the crimes they commit when on it, the broken families caused by substance abuse, the lost jobs,

    This they find more congenial to talk about – but that’s not all the problems drugs cause.

    and the amount of money that could have been used for more productive purposes in the neighborhood.

    Not by the people who steal for drugs, but maybe you can say that by the people who are deprived of money. Also stores which can;t sustain themselves or thrive.

    I suspect that the enterprising liberal sociologist will respond that there are societal feedback loops that explain the disproportionate criminality — broken homes from incarcerated parents,

    Or never formed homes.

    I agree with you incidentally, which you may not realize you are postulating, that crime causes illegitimacy, and not the other way around.

    and that something new should be tried.

    The old system was working, perhaps not enough, until Black Lives Matter and others gt Democrats to institute de-policing policies. Crime had been going down for a quarter of a century by 2015. But then we got a pro crime agenda, which accelerated after 2019.

    And if you decrease the cost of crime, you will get more crime. If Chicago blacks are being killed at record levels with very few (relative) clearances, then you will get more of it.

    And if you incarcerate peple under 18 or under 16 less, you get more crime. Now they could perhaps be exiled.

    The rise n crime started in the late 1950s with more lenient juvenile delinquency laws. People literally got trained to believe there were no consequences.

    They reduced it more in the last two years, with the result that gangs assign the task of shooting prople and holding guns to teenagers – the one benefit is that they miss more often.

    What needs to happen….and where Obama missed his greatest opportunity….is the resurrection of shame…..and acknowledging that it all gets back to family structure and not rationalizing bad behavior. That should be the one resounding theme in poor ethnic communities….not Critical Race Theory….not Black Lives Matter (though they do too)….not anti-policing….not reparations….and not excusing criminality by throwing open the jail doors (criminal justice reform). Inner city culture has to change….

    It’s been changing slowly the last year — for the worse. Everything deteriorates if not backed up in the end by law enforcement.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  12. The distortions about racism are being pushed into elite and very expensive, private schools, through an accreditation process.

    Parents were told to sign a letter that not only would they let the school(s) teach it but they would back it up at home. (not in this article, heard on the radio, I think NPR) The thing that organized it also not in this letter, He originally expected it to be read only by the people he emailed it to.

    https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/you-have-to-read-this-letter

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  13. “My conclusion: David French is a good guy who seeks common ground on difficult issues. His heart got the best of his reason on this topic.”

    David French’s adoption of exotic orphans and the not-so-exotic slate of liberal arguments to preen about how this gives him specialized moral insight is no more morally laudable than when Angelina Jolie does it.

    “crime causes illegitimacy, and not the other way around”

    Incorrect. Broken homes and neighborhoods are and have always been the most fallow construction and recruiting grounds for crime syndicates to take hold. The promotion and normalization of illegitimacy (and concomitant marginalization and migration of the righteous) is the first step toward a rotten borough, not the last.

    “Everything deteriorates if not backed up in the end by law enforcement.”

    Law enforcement is NOT the proper way to build up strong societies. If the police are the only thing keeping your community together, it probably didn’t exist in the first place, far more likely that they’ll be bribed away from the unenviable task of policing low-impulse control communities or get replaced by corrupt locals in short order.

    This is nothing but neocon domestic policy and is just as much a failure as neocon foreign policy. And it all falls apart the second you stop funding it, because there’s no organic motivation or reward to get the neighborhood off welfare, because no one values the lives or livelihoods of the normal people in the neighborhood

    “There is no reason to punish women as harshly as men. Women, as a group, do not commit so many or so serious crimes as to pose a danger to the state or to the social order.”

    Spoken like a man who thinks like one. Women are the core around which most society revolves, and failing to punish them emboldens all the others in short order to not only excuse bad behavior but normalize it to the point where you can’t punish it anymore.

    “One might even say that they are the reason for the existence of the state and the social order. Everything men do, they do for or because of women.”

    At certain times in life. Once you get it, you naturally gravitate toward new goals. Men also have families, friendships, fraternal orders, an obsession with the natural world, and occasional dedication to dumb-ass easily falsifiable slogans like whatever it was you just said.

    Let it be known:

    You will not accomplish anything more than David French ever did without first tolerating and encouraging normal people being mean to the most currently protected classes. And you have shown no willingness to do that at even a theoretical level. So it’s not surprising that you’ve retreated to bromides and platitudes instead.

    Repeat Offender (af8b0f)

  14. I wonder if French still owns his opinion on Europe’s Afghani rape epidemic from just a few years ago.

    I haven’t seen him mention it since the Biden admin decided mass importation with minimal vetting was a good move.

    Have Afghan Refugees in Europe Launched a ‘Rape Jihad’?

    https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/07/afghan-refugees-rape-jihad-europe/

    Obudman (86020d)

  15. “crime causes illegitimacy, and not the other way around”

    The illegitimacy rate rose after the crime rate rose.

    Similarly, crime causes poverty, and not the other way around.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  16. The esteemed Mr Finkelman wrote:

    “crime causes illegitimacy, and not the other way around”

    The illegitimacy rate rose after the crime rate rose.

    Similarly, crime causes poverty, and not the other way around.

    That’s kind of like the chicken causes the egg, which causes the chicken, which causes the egg . . . .

    Welfare causes illegitimacy, because the primary economic penalty for illegitimacy is poverty, and welfare reduces — not eliminates — poverty.

    The libertarian, but not Libertarian, Dana (fcc309)

  17. Mr Offender wrote:

    You will not accomplish anything more than David French ever did without first tolerating and encouraging normal people being mean to the most currently protected classes.

    Conservatism requires being an [insert slang term for the rectum here] at times, because being a conservative means being willing to say, “No!” to people. Conservatism requires being able to refuse to help people who are in unfortunate, even dire, straits, because of their own behavior. Conservatism requires being willing to let some people suffer when their suffering has been caused by their rotten choices. Conservatism requires being willing to let people starve to death if they can’t hold a job due to their drug use or alcoholism or indolence.

    The libertarian, but not Libertarian, Dana (fcc309)

  18. “Similarly, crime causes poverty, and not the other way around.”

    Still incorrect. Poverty can be, but is not necessarily a result of choices that people make. There are plenty of poor but not criminal neighborhoods, plenty of rich neighborhoods that have their own feuds from kids that barely get disciplined and who can pay the law to look the other way for anything but the most serious transgressions.

    Illegitimacy by its very definition is the result of choices people make and is a primary target audience for the career criminal. I don’t see pimps going after the daughters of single fathers any more than I see burglars going for occupied homes or FBI agents trying to make payroll by encouraging successful lawyers instead of desocialized low-rank losers to go plant bombs at federal buildings.

    Step one is always creating the broken social conditions, step two is the criminal opportunists moving in and making the broken conditions both permanent and normative for their own benefit. And the definition of “criminal opportunist” naturally encompasses both those giving the money at the top and those stealing it to keep the criminal syndicates running at the bottom.

    17. All of those consequences are the finalizing of broken relationships rather than their repair. Being mean to someone necessitates active social contact, getting on their ass for their bad behavior requires active social contact, and simply casting them out means that they’ll find someone with levels of criminal survival they’ll be prepared to accept.

    While the neocon approach to social problems is absolutely wrongheaded, counterproductive, and based on incorrect assumptions about human nature, unlike in places like Afghanistan you can’t really just abandon the people either, especially since they’re inside your borders.

    Society Studier (667ae6)

  19. Society Studier (667ae6) — 10/4/2021 @ 7:58 am

    Poverty can be, but is not necessarily a result of choices that people make.

    More exactly, crime causes more poverty.

    I was thinking statistics, and also thinking of people besides the criminally inclined themselves, who may not be very poor in reality.

    And what is certainly not true is crime being caused by poverty.

    A rise in crime in an area, causes more poverty in that area. It’s a tax.

    There are plenty of poor but not criminal neighborhoods,

    Not in these days, except in rural areas. When crme goes down, pretty soon you get gentrification.

    Poverty can’t last without something preserving it.

    There is no reason for an area of a city to stay poor except the direct and indirect effects of crime,

    plenty of rich neighborhoods that have their own feuds from kids that barely get disciplined and who can pay the law to look the other way for anything but the most serious transgressions.

    Thewy don;t have the kind of crimes that impoverish people or cause businesses to close. And they do other things with bad rich kids, like send them to military school.

    Illegitimacy by its very definition is the result of choices people make

    They make those choices because many of then men are criminals. They don’t want to marry, and women dn;t want to marry them.

    and is a primary target audience for the career criminal.

    The choice to become a career criminal comes first.

    I don’t see pimps going after the daughters of single fathers

    They go after girls who run away from home.

    any more than I see burglars going for occupied homes or FBI agents trying to make payroll by encouraging successful lawyers instead of desocialized low-rank losers to go plant bombs at federal buildings.

    Crime causes crime – the losers are already desocialized.

    Step one is always creating the broken social conditions, step two is the criminal opportunists moving in and making the broken conditions both permanent and normative for their own benefit. A

    The brpken social conditions are caused by poor character at averyy young age. A person’s friends, who are usually made in school. The United States is very good at getting children to attend school – not so good at anything that happens in them.

    Sammy Finkelman (51cd0c)

  20. Welfare causes illegitimacy, because the primary economic penalty for illegitimacy is poverty, and welfare reduces — not eliminates — poverty.

    Whereupon, the birds and the bees, not to mention William I of England and Alexander Hamilton of America, coming from the opposite direction on the sidewalk, upon hearing this, cross to the other side of the street.

    nk (1d9030)

  21. French has been writing “black are victims of the justice system” for a decade.

    DN (9791af)


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