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Editor’s note: The following column first appeared in City Journal.
George Soros took to the Wall Street Journal this week to defend his financial support for “reform prosecutors.” He began by asserting that “Americans desperately need a more thoughtful discussion about our response to crime.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I wrote a book (out last week) on our ongoing national debate about crime and justice.
Sadly, Soros’s piece failed to deliver that thoughtful discussion. Instead, the philanthropist offered a shallow, essentially data-free collection of platitudes—”If people trust the justice system, it will work”—and incomplete observations.
Soros highlights the statistic that “black people in the U.S. are five times as likely to be sent to jail as white people.” This is, he says without explanation, “an injustice that undermines our democracy.” Such a contention is meant to persuade the reader that these incarcerations are mostly (if not overwhelmingly) illegitimate—the product of racial animus more than anything else.
What else could it be? Well, how about disparate rates of criminal offending? A Bureau of Justice Statistics study of homicides between 1980 and 2008 found that Blacks commit homicide offenses at a rate “almost eight times higher than