Everyone in America is promised equal treatment under the law.
If you’re black, however, you probably already believe that’s a myth. Now, there’s evidence to back up what you may have always known: Race sometimes matters more than the truth and innocence won’t necessarily ensure your acquittal at a trial when you’re black — particularly where violent crimes are concerned.
If you’re an innocent black person who is charged with murder, you’re seven times more likely to be convicted than a white person charged with the same crime. If you’re black and charged with sexual assault or rape, you’re three times more likely to be wrongfully convicted than a white person charged with the same crime.
Once you’re behind bars, life for a black convict is also decidedly different than life for a white convict. According to a spokesperson from The Innocence Project, “Black people are discriminated against and disproportionately criminalized at every state of the criminal justice system.” Many black prisoners recount the fact that they were confronted on a daily basis with mostly white guards and the fact that white prisoners were often given better jobs and treated differently than black prisoners.
Even when it comes to eventual exoneration for their alleged crimes, black people who are later found to be innocent of their charges don’t fare as well as whites. An innocent black person who is somehow fortunate enough to be exonerated after a conviction will still likely spend an average of 10.7 years in prison for a crime he or she didn’t commit before gaining release. A white person, on the other hand, who gains exoneration will only spend an average of 7.4 years behind bars unjustly. That implies that white people who maintain their innocence post-conviction are given more credibility and have access to better legal resources than black people, as well.
All of this information is important to understand — especially if you’re a black person who has been accused of a violent crime. You need strong, experienced legal representation to protect your rights and help you make decisions that will benefit you best at each step of the process.