A former federal prosecutor who once said Blacks and Hispanics are more violent than whites has been tapped to join President Donald Trump’s sentencing commission.
William Otis, a Georgetown professor, writes on a blog called “Crime and Consequences.” He wrote in a 2013 post:
“Thus, when Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones said at a University of Pennsylvania Law School talk that blacks and Hispanics are more violent than whites, a consortium of civil rights* organizations filed a complaint. The complaint calls for stern discipline, on the grounds that the remarks were ‘discriminatory and biased.’
“So far as I have been able to discover, it makes no mention of the fact that they’re true.
“* I am old enough to remember that civil rights used to include the First Amendment.”
Otis continued the conversation in the comments section of that same post and says racial disparities “are caused by making choices.”
“Choices are indeed affected by social factors, but by far the main social factor is a stable, disciplined, employed, two-parent family life. The incidence of crime (or, more precisely, of avoiding crime) correlates with this factor more than with anything else — race, religion, income, you name it.”
Studies have found a link between poverty and incarceration, some suggesting even a stronger link than race. And Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general, acknowledged in an op-ed for the New York Times in 2016 that drug sentences do in fact carry a racial implication:
“There is still a disparity in sentencing for offenses relating to crack and powder cocaine, chemically identical substances. Given the policy’s differential racial impact, which erodes confidence in the justice system, this disparity must go. In the light of recent events, we can’t afford criminal justice policies that reduce the already fragile trust between minority communities and law enforcement agencies.”
As previously reported by DiversityInc, “Most offenders sentenced under the crack provisions are Black and Latino, whereas white offenders make up a much higher portion of those convicted for powder cocaine offenses.”
But this information does not concern Otis, who also brings Asians into the discussion:
“This is the reason that, for example, Orientals have less incidence of crime than whites. Orientals were unquestionably the victims of long and rancid racial bigotry; coolie labor was little more than slave labor. And Yick Wo v. Hopkins is one of the most famous civil rights cases of all time.
“The reason Orientals stay out of jail more than either whites or blacks is that family life, work, education and tradition are honored more in Oriental culture than in others.”
“Coolie” is considered an offensive term referring to an unskilled laborer from the East who is paid low wages.
Otis, like Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, does not support sentencing reform and rejects the idea of “low-level offenders.” In a 2014 blog post he compared a drug user to a child molester:
“Last I looked, when you needle yourself with too much heroin, you’re still dead; when a thug belts you to grab your purse, you still have a knot on your head and no purse; and when Mr. Nicey rapes your eight year-old, you still have a defiled little girl to try to help.”
And in a 2017 interview with NPR he said:
“Low-level offenders seems to me to be an undefined phrase. You don’t know exactly what low level means. Often it’s used to mean a courier in a drug business. What people don’t realize as much as they should is that a courier in the drug business is just as essential as a car is in a pizza delivery business. The business – unless you can deliver your inventory, the business is going to fall apart. And just saying that they’re low level is too general and too undefined to make for good criminal justice policy.”
During former President Barack Obama’s presidency, the Justice Department in 2013 took a “Smart on Crime” approach that saved longer prison sentences for more violent and repeat offenders, favoring shorter sentences for low-level, nonviolent offenders. In 2014, for the first time in three decades, there was a consecutive drop in the federal prison population — which saved taxpayers money.
As noted by the Chicago Tribune, an approach similar to Sessions’ has already been tried and proven unsuccessful:
“Sessions’ directive mirrors the tough-on-drug-crime policies of George W. Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, who in 2003 also pushed federal prosecutors to pursue mandatory minimum cases, no matter the circumstance. With Ashcroft’s policy in place, the federal prison population shot up from 172,000 to 220,000. The policy disproportionately affected minorities: Today, 38 percent of federal inmates are black, and 33 percent are Hispanic.”