The old Trump was right about crime, race, and incarceration

· October 15, 2018  
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Trump Putin summit Finland
Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

On Thursday, coinciding with Kanye West’s visit to the Oval Office, President Trump made a bizarre and shocking comment that we need to support legislation that, among other things, retroactively releases drug traffickers, because it “is very unfair to African-Americans.”

The comment was bizarre because Trump previously mocked the purveyors of this talking point for the simple reason that there is a racial disparity in rates of violent crimes across the board. Drug trafficking in a vacuum has very little to do with it. Supporters of jailbreak claim that black people are disproportionately incarcerated, particularly for what they believe to be “low-level” or “nonviolent” crimes or drug charges. But the sad reality is that, as Trump himself used to say, black people commit a disproportionate share of violent crime and are also disproportionately the victims of those crimes. Thus, incarceration is just the natural symptom of the broader problem.

Here is a sampling of what Trump used to say:

The reality that Trump once understood is that black people are incarcerated more than white people because they commit crimes at much higher rates, commensurate with their incarceration rate. He also understood that most of this crime was violent crime, not simple drug possessions, and that overwhelmingly, the victims of that violence are also black. So why is Trump suddenly buying in to this nonsense?

And nonsense it is. As Charles Lane wrote in the Washington Post a few years ago, “Blacks make up 37.5 percent of all state prisoners, about triple their share of the population as a whole, according to the Justice Department. If we released all 208,000 people currently in state prison on a drug charge, the proportion of African Americans in state prison would still be 37 percent.”

So this has nothing to do with drug charges. It’s all about violent crime rates. While black people compose roughly 37.5 percent of the prison population, they have consistently accounted for at least 39 percent of the violent-crime arrests.

So what is the latest crime data on violent crime categories?

Here are the facts from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting:

  • In 2017, 1,272 more black people were killed (7,851) by homicide than white people (6,579). That is simply an astounding statistic given that black people compose just 13 percent of the population.
  • Of the 11,883 homicide offenders whose race is known, a whopping 54 percent were black, 43 percent white, and 3 percent other.
  • In cases where the race of both the victim and offender were known, a staggering 88.4 percent of black homicide victims were murdered by black offenders.

This is just for murder. In 2012 (the last year the FBI broke down the race of those arrested for other offenses), African-Americans accounted for 32.9 percent of those arrested for rape, 55 percent of those arrested for robbery, and 34.1 percent of those arrested for aggravated assault.

To sum up the point, even though black people are just 13 percent of the population, they account for 54 percent of all homicide offenders and victims, 55 percent of robbery offenders, 33 percent of rape offenders, and 34 percent of assault offenders.

Anyone truly concerned about the future of black communities should be horrified by this grim reality. The problem is not incarceration; the problem is the culture of violent crime fostered by years of failed liberal policies in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, and Chicago that have devastated the black family.

Remember, not nearly every murderer winds up in prison. Just in one year, 6,013 murder cases went uncleared by law enforcement. In addition, 79,310 rape cases, 206,091 robbery cases, and 349,190 aggravated assault cases were uncleared in 2017, according to the FBI. Thus, even if we put drug-traffickers aside and just focused on other violent crime categories, if we actually successfully convicted every murderer, and certainly every other violent offender, there would be hundreds of thousands more people in prison. And it would all be for violent crime, not for Martha Stewart’s insider trading. Clearly, we have a crime problem, not an incarceration problem.

The big lie about drug charges on the federal level

As for drug traffickers, it is a display of Orwellian insanity to let the most professional drug traffickers out of prison at a time when the drug trafficking crisis, largely due to open borders and sanctuary cities, is killing more people than ever. Even as the opioid deaths level off (at an appallingly high plateau), deaths from cocaine are skyrocketing every month. This is devastating black communities more than anyone else. As BuzzFeed reported in May, “The death rate from fentanyl-cocaine overdoses is higher for black people than any other racial group.”

The lethality of the drugs available is catastrophic. Imagine releasing all of the professional traffickers with today’s drugs.

President Trump’s intuition that drugs and incarceration are mainly caused by open borders are correct. If he were to actually veto budget bills until Congress gives him his priorities on immigration, we’d be locking up fewer people on drug charges in federal prison, especially because most of the primary traffickers are criminal aliens. Almost 40 percent of those in U.S. Marshal custody are foreign nationals, and that number is likely much higher among those charged on federal drug violations. Reducing sentencing and promoting early release, particularly on the federal level, without dealing with the illegal immigration problem is a recipe for disaster on crime, immigration, and drugs.

Trump vs. Hillary on this very issue  

Nothing I’m saying would be news to the president. He was formerly the most articulate advocate of addressing the root problem rather than the symptom.

Mr. President, let’s engage in that honest discussion you wished to have on crime and who is hurt by it. Let’s get to the root cause of dysfunction in urban neighborhoods, a discussion you were effectively engaging in recently. Let’s not promote the Hillary Clinton lies about the criminal justice system. It was, in fact, Hillary Clinton who campaigned on this nonsense, which you now appear to be supporting. During the second presidential debate, Hillary Clinton asserted that “it’s just a fact that if you’re a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted, and incarcerated.” She unflinchingly declared the presence of “systemic racism in our criminal justice system.”

Mr. President, as you have chanted “lock her up,” let’s also keep violent criminals locked up and permanently lock up her dangerous proposals on crime.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.