New report turns racial bias narrative on its head

A new report released today from Center of the American Experiment refutes the widely-accepted narrative that Minnesota’s criminal justice system is biased against black offenders. In fact, the system is more favorable to black offenders and less favorable to white offenders at every stage of the system, including incarceration.

The report used new data collected by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) that tracked offender activity at the earliest stage of the system for the first time. By changing the denominator from general population to offender status, the racial disparities actually favor black offenders, contrary to popular opinion.

“The narrative of unwarranted racial disparitiesin Minnesota’s criminal justice system is well entrenched but this new offender data from the BCA exposes this narrative as a myth,” said report author and Public Safety Policy Fellow David Zimmer. Before joining American Experiment, Zimmer was a 33-year veteran with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department.

Dispelling the Myth of Unwarranted Racial Disparities in Minnesota’s Criminal Justice System uses this new offender data as the denominator in calculations examining the impact of Minnesota’s criminal justice system from arrests to sentencing to incarceration. The result?  White offenders are much more likely to be held accountable than black offenders.

From the conclusion of the report:

It is time for policymakers to recognize that Minnesota’s criminal justice system is not creating unwarranted disparities disfavoring black offenders. Responding as if it does, and altering the system to favor black offenders over white offenders is a misguided effort. It weakens short-term accountability in the black community, and derails, delays, and underfunds efforts to apply long-term solutions toward the social disparities that arguably fuel the disproportionate amount of black criminal offending, and black victimization.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The prevailing narrative about race in Minnesota’s criminal justice system is that there are disproportionate numbers of black and white offenders within the criminal justice system to that of the general public, and that these differences represent “unwarranted disparities” which are born out of policies and practices that unfairly treat people of color more harshly.
  • The narrative has become foundational to nearly all criminal justice system policy development. If the narrative is based on misleading representations of the data, then the narrative represents a significant problem.
  • This analysis attempts to answer whether black and white Minnesotans are treated equally in the criminal justice system. It uses a unique data set that has, until recently, not been available: offender data by race. Knowing who the offenders are by race allows those examining the issue to focus on those who are committing crimes, not on the massive proportion of the law-abiding population. The data from this focused examination is far more pertinent to answer the question at hand.
  • Offender data and other traditional data sets from 2021 were used in this limited analysis which compared white and black adult offenders as they traveled through Minnesota’s criminal justice system.
  • In direct conflict with the prevailing narrative, the disparities that followed criminal offenders through the system were frequently more favorable to black offenders and less favorable to white offenders at every stage, including incarceration.
  • Minnesota’s criminal justice system is a system that deals with grossly disproportionate numbers of black offenders at the outset. Deflecting attention away from this fact and gutting accountability in a misguided effort to address “disparities” only subjects black communities to continued disproportionately high crime levels.

A copy of the report can be accessed here: