Common sentencing practices waste resources, destroy poor & Black families
Dangerous criminals should be in jail, but 64 percent of those housed in the Allegheny County Jail or related facilities are there because of probation or parole violations, or are awaiting trial—and more than 80 percent were for non-violent offenses, and many of them are there only because they are too poor to post bail.
Those are just some of the findings detailed in the comprehensive “Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Improving Incarceration Policies and Practices in Allegheny County” report released last week by the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics’ Criminal Justice Task Force.
The report also noted that local sentencing practices, particularly at the earliest stages—arrest and arraignment—disproportionally affect Blacks. Black males are booked into the county jail at nearly 100 times the frequency of White males, at a rate of 15.4 per 1,000 as opposed to 8.4 per 1,000.
Blacks account for 49 percent of the jail’s population while comprising just over 13 percent of the county population. The report notes the disparate incarceration rates—especially for minor crimes or probation violations results in families and communities continually being disrupted by people going in and out of prison.