Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: criminal justice


Don’t chip away at public disclosure

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

For public officials, laws requiring government transparency can be a royal pain. We get that.

Those laws mean they have to publicize meetings and allow in citizens who might be quarrelsome or reporters who might ask uncomfortable questions.

And those laws mean they have to respond to citizens and media representatives requesting public records – even requests that might be time-consuming or seem unreasonable.

But open government laws are on the books for a reason: Read more »


Justice needs tailoring for Allen, Lain and Massey

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The old saw, “Do the crime, do the time,” suggests that sentencing is simple. In the case of three men now in the criminal justice system – Darcus Allen, Jerry Dean Lain and Barry Massey – it’s anything but.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist opted last week not to seek the death penalty for Allen, who’s accused of serving as the getaway driver a year ago after Maurice Clemmons gunned down four Lakewood police officers at the Parkland coffee shop.

Instead, Lindquist decided to settle for life without parole, the only other

Read more »


Tough conclusions about race and crime

State Supreme Court justices Richard Sanders and Jim Johnson sailed into a squall a couple weeks ago when they disputed claims that racism explains the disproportionate rate of black imprisonment. The remarks prompted the Seattle Times to withdraw its endorsement of Sanders’ re-election almost as fast as NPR fired Juan Williams.

We wound up editorializing that a single-minded focus on racism can obscure more concrete problems, such as poverty and lack of legal representation, that might have concrete solutions. Centuries of institutional racism – especially slavery and Jim Crow – may have created the problem, but remedies must be found in the here-and-now.

The most ferocious challenge to the racism-only paradigm I’ve run into comes from Heather MacDonald of the conservative Manhattan Institute, who published a statistically dense rebuttal in the Spring 2008 issue of City Journal. Some of her points:

• Criminals strongly tend to be fingered by victims of the same race.

• Multiple studies by liberal scholars have found that conviction rates are driven by actual crimes, not bias.

• The disparity in federal penalties for crack and cocaine possession, sometimes cited as a factor in disparate racial imprisonment rates, has an almost negligible effect. In any event, black leaders originally called for the crackdown on crack: “It takes shameless sleight of hand to turn an effort to protect blacks into a conspiracy against them.”
Read more »


There’s more than racism behind crime rates

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders got himself in trouble – what else is new? – for asserting last week that blacks wind up in state prison at higher rates because they commit crimes at higher rates.

Predictably, he got slammed from all directions. He’s clearly guilty of insensitivity: That was an absurdly simplistic summary of an extremely complex problem. Still, his comments ought to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one.

The state’s black population is roughly 4 percent. Its prison population is roughly 20 percent. That disparity should appall anyone. But Sanders was right in one respect: Attributing the gap exclusively to racism won’t help solve the specific problems that perpetuate it.

Racism created many of the difficulties some minorities continue to struggle with. African Americans – who, with American Indians, suffered the worst of it – endured more than two centuries of slavery and another century of legal subjugation.

No group could survive a crucible like that without scars and disadvantages. Though most American blacks have since clawed their way into the middle class, far too many remain in poverty.
But if racism provides the overall context, more specific circumstances explain much of the disparity in arrests, convictions and imprisonment.
Read more »


A case of CYA in Jaycee Dugard investigation?

The editorial board at our sister paper, The Sacramento Bee, is justifiably taking after state and federal officials who are refusing to release parole documents relating to Phillip Garrido who is accused of kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard in 1991.

How Dugard went undetected for so long is of legitimate interest to a lot of people. But the government agencies are refusing to release records that would shed light on how often parole agents visited the home and whether they knew that a young woman was living there. (Strangely enough, federal authorities did release documents that lauded Garrido for

Read more »