I wasn't even going to link to this story because I don't want to repeat myself more than necessary.
Here's the point: black New Yorkers are seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. For a moment, let's put aside the actually story (not that we should). For the sake of debate, let's accept the seven times figure (as we should). Let's also accept that whites smoke just as much weed as blacks (that's also true). Let's ignore that fact (not that we should) that these arrests happen even though personal marijuana possession in New York State is decriminalized. And let's also not concern ourselves with the cost of $53 million to $88 million annually for these arrests. Let's not worry that these arrests may play an important part in a general "broken windows" approach to crime prevention. And finally, let's assume that everybody arrested is guilty as charged.
Here's my question: Does it matter that blacks are seven times more likely than whites to get caught for this drug crime? Perhaps not. I mean, all you have to do to not be arrested in not commit a crime, right?
Is simple guilt all that is needed to give moral justification to our criminal justice system? Remember, this seven-times discrepancy is not due to the facts that blacks are more likely to commit this drug crime. We're just talking about the odds of getting caught.
I mean, what if cops only gave traffic tickets to women. Women who speed and run red lights. But what if basically men were given a pass when it comes to traffic violations. Does it matter? Would this be fair? Perhaps.... since all the tickets were given to guilty women. But for traffic enforcement to be fair, shouldn't men get tickets, too?
At some level, I think the very notion of justice--at least justice with any moral legitimacy--depends on the idea that everybody has an equal (or at least somewhat equal) chance of getting caught.
What do you think?