Is the Criminal Justice System Racist? A Soho Forum Debate

The Washington Post's Radley Balko vs. the Manhattan Institute's Rafael Mangual on whether "there is overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system is racist."


HD Download

There is overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system is racist.

That was the resolution of an online Soho Forum debate held on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. It featured The Washington Post's Radley Balko and the Manhattan Institute's Rafael Mangual. The debate was moderated by Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein.

Arguing that America's criminal justice system is, in fact, racist was Radley Balko, an opinion writer for The Washington Post. A former editor at Reason, Balko is also the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop and co-author of The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist.

Defending America's criminal justice against the charge of racism was Rafael Mangual, the deputy director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute, who is also a contributing editor for City Journal. Mangual's writing has appeared in The Wall Street JournalThe Atlantic, the New York Post, the Boston Herald, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Soho Forum, sponsored by the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village.

Update: Voting on this debate ended on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at noon EST. Radley Balko won by convincing 21.62 percent of the audience to change their minds. Rafael Mangual convinced 10.81 percent.

Produced by John Osterhoudt.

NEXT: Glenn Loury: 'We're Being Swept Along by Hysteria' About Racism in America

HD Download

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Liza Make money online from home extra cash more than $18k to $21k. Start getting paid every month Thousands Dollars online. I have received $26K in this month by just working online from home in my part time.VDf every person easily do this job by just open this link and follow details on this page to get started….. New Income Opportunities

    1. “Liza Make money”?! Now, *that* is RACIST!!

  2. How can Rafael be so dense as to claim that there is no such thing as accidental racism, and that there has to be racist intent in a person obeying a policy in order for it to be racist? Here is a very simple example. Racist police chief wants to hurt black people and decides that black people play basketball more than white people, so he institutes a policy to stop and frisk people at basketball courts. He later retires and the policy remains. Police officers continue to stop and frisk at basketball courts, resulting in black people being harassed at a much higher rate than white people. None of the police officers have to be racist in order for this to be the case.

    1. I think he would respond that the part where the racist sheriff creates that policy is in fact intentional and nonaccidental.

      1. That is not the argument he was making. Did you listen to the debate? He was making the argument that if the cop is not intentionally racist, then there can’t be racism.

        1. racism
          prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.

          It is an action predicated on the basis of a racial or ethnic group. If the action is not taken with intent, the basis for the action was not based on racial or ethnic group properties.

          Next up, explaining to Chipper the difference between a lie and being wrong.

        2. if the cop is not intentionally racist, then there can’t be racism.
          Can you elaborate on this? This logic doesn’t make sense.

        3. Balco’s argument is that people in the system today are not racist, but the system was created by racists, and it was so well designed to be racist that the system continues to execute its racist ‘programing’ despite all the people in the system being non racist. That’s what Balco contends makes it *systemic* racism. The system is racist, even though the people aren’t.

          Mangual’s argument is that racism is defined by racial animus, so even if the people who built the system were explicitly racist, if they are gone and the current inhabitants of the system bare no racial animus, then it cannot be a racist system even if it produces disparate outcomes. I believe he would say a police chief implementing policy based on racial animus is the very thing that would actually constitute systemic racism. Yes, I listened to it.

          1. “the system was created by racists, and it was so well designed to be racist that the system continues to execute its racist ‘programing’ despite all the people in the system being non racist.”

            So, per Balko, the people will only be free when the system makes them free?

            Another Reason alumnus self identifies as a collectivist.

  3. Everything is racist.
    Look, that cloud up there is white.
    That’s racist.
    That cotton ball is white.
    That’s racist.
    That bear in the zoo is white.
    That’s racist.
    That man is wearing white socks.
    That’s racist.
    That mayonnaise is white.
    That’s racist.
    Did I leave anything out?

      1. gotta give you props for that one

    1. Marshmallows


  4. http://groups.google.com/d/msg/soc.culture.israel/k4OvsDOxGlM/gdo8uXL1BQAJ

    “Local law enforcement must be able to use their discretion to determine
    who can carry a concealed weapon,” said Kamala Harris, who was then the
    California Attorney General.

    I have always wondered how #BlackLivesMatter would view this. After all,
    according to their narrative, cops are just Klansmen with badges who
    habitually gun down unarmed black men. How could we trust such people with
    discretion to determine who may carry a concealed weapon?

    And yet, just yesterday, she tweeted this:

    Today, we remember #MikeBrown and recommit to ensuring truth,
    transparency, and trust in our criminal justice system. #BlackLivesMatter

    So I wonder if any reporter from the network broadcast and print media would
    ask her any of the following questions:

    – If the reason that “[l]ocal law enforcement must be able to use their
    discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon” is because they
    are just Klansmen with badges, why shouldn’t the Stormfront White
    Nationalist Community also get to decide who can carry a concealed weapon?

    – If the reason that “[l]ocal law enforcement must be able to use their
    discretion to determine who can carry a concealed weapon” is because they
    habitually gun down unarmed black men, why shouldn’t the Crips also get to
    decide who can carry a concealed weapon?

    – Is more black men dead or in prison a worthy price to pay to make lawful
    gun ownership more difficult?

    – Is making lawful gun ownership more difficult a worthy price to pay to put
    more black men in prison?

    – Does some magical guardian fairy turn these Klansmen with badges into
    freedom riders whenever they exercise their “discretion to determine who can
    carry a concealed weapon”?

    1. Worth remembering that almost immediately after she surged in the polls back in November, there was a wave of bad press specifically about her history as a prosecutor. It almost singlehandedly sunk her. Black lives matter has not gone easy on her.

  5. [ STAY AT HOME & WORK AT HOME ] Start making money this time… Spend more time with your family&relative by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $65o to $7oo a month. I’ve started this job and earn handsome income and now i am exchange it with you, so you can do it too.Click Here For More Detail.

  6. Can’t you put an MP3 link in so I don’t have to waste bandwidth and memory with a fucking hour and a half of HD video?

    1. You haven’t learned to use the internet by now?

  7. Everyone’s a little bit racist, it’s true
    But everyone is just about as racist, as you
    If we all could just admit
    That we are racist, a little bit
    and everyone stop being so PC
    Maybe we could live in harmony!

    1. Evlyone’s a ritter bit lacist.

  8. I just finished listening to the full debate.

    My biggest gripe is that the debaters were using different definitions of “systemic racism” and neither of them really made a case for why their definition should be preferred. As a result of this, they spent much of the debate simply talking past each other, rather than addressing each others’ points. You can’t have a productive discussion if you can’t even agree what you’re talking about.

    For what it’s worth, I started and ended the debate agreeing with Radley Balko.

  9. [ USA ONLY ]Getting paid every month easily more than $15k just by doing simple job online. Last month i have exactly received $16839 from this online job just by giving this 2 hrs a day online. Now everybody on this earth can get this job and start earning more cash online just by follow instructions here……..for more info visit any tab this site Thanks a lot Copy Here.Click Here For More Detail.

  10. From an anonymous UC professor.

    “ consider the proportion of black incarcerated Americans. This proportion is often used to characterize the criminal justice system as anti-black. However, if we use the precise same methodology, we would have to conclude that the criminal justice system is even more anti-male than it is anti-black.

    Would we characterize criminal justice as a systemically misandrist conspiracy against innocent American men? I hope you see that this type of reasoning is flawed, and requires a significant suspension of our rational faculties. Black people are not incarcerated at higher rates than their involvement in violent crime would predict. ”

  11. I live in St. Louis and have been popped by those little municipal cops about 6 times in my life while driving through. They go after everyone; they don’t care who you are.

  12. If only we had a body of leaders who could change these so called racist laws

  13. Wow, Reason, just remove my non-incendiary posts? Do you give Balko a chance to veto anything he doesn’t like?

  14. Much about this was frustrating. Even the framing of whether the criminal justice system is racist hurts the dialog. Do our current criminal justice practices and policies achieve the goal of community peace, safety and flourishing? Are there better options to consider?

    Among OECD countries we are unique in our militarization of the police, in our level of violence by the police, in our level of incarceration and unequal justice by the criminal justice system.

    Rafael seems to argue that all that is normal, within reason and all the evidence against it is methodologically flawed. The system we have works fine, accept for releasing too many recidivist offenders. The fact that many happen to be black is because more blacks are criminals.

    Crime has declined in all OECD counties since the 1990s.

    That’s why answers like fewer unwanted children or reduced lead poisoning are valid explanations because the other countries didn’t make their criminal justice systems harsher but did take those steps too.

    Rafael’s Charlie Rangle example of him defending Drug War policies actually struck me as a great example of Radley’s point about the system being what’s causing the problem, not the people. Rangle (for whatever personal or political reasons) backed a horrendously ill informed and bad policy that by any objective measure is a failure. Portugal’s recent success with decriminalized drugs as the final nail in the coffin. Rangle himself is not ill intended, but his choice to back a horrible policy hurt people, families and communities compared to alternative policies.

    1. How is Rangel’s backing the War on Drugs and example of “the system” being the cause of the problem? Nobody made him back it, and it was not an arbitrary decision, but a major priority throughout his career. The fact is that the War on Drugs can’t be considered as primarily motivated by racism because many blacks then (and probably still now) agree that drugs are bad for their neighbourhoods. You might disagree, but it is a reasonable position that has nothing to do with race. And if the War on Drugs has affected blacks disproportionately, that is an unintended consequence which no one foresaw, not a deliberate result.

  15. I think there are 2 ways the Drug War & Rangel illustrate the systemic flaw. 1) Nixon’s own language on the Nixon tapes makes clear he thought of the Drug War as a way to use criminal enforcement to reduce black voter power. And 2) The propensity to seek a criminal justice solution to a social and economic problem is a blindspot in the system.

    Other countries are able to respond to people in crisis with policies that deploy compassion and seek restoration of those people’s livelihood. Our system more often seeks to moralize and punish poverty and personal behavior.

    So Rangel, a black representative from Harlem, sees drugs ravaging his community and his response is the American one, that also happens to perpetuate a solution devised originally to reduce the political power of his constituents.

    Imagine how hard it would have been for Rangel to take the position that drugs merit a mental and social health response, not a criminal one. We already knew prohibition didn’t work and made crime worse… but he would have paid a high political price to say those things. ergo, the system uses whatever actors within it to perpetuate itself.

    Why would Eisenhower warn us of a military industrial complex that would engorge itself on the public trough and not of people with greedy personal motives. Systems do shape behavior and choices.

  16. My Boy pal makes $seventy five/hour at the internet. She has been without a assignment for six months however remaining month her pay have become $16453 genuinely working at the internet for some hours. Click Here For More Detail.

  17. The more a person identifies in a certain manner the more likely they are to identify anything that happens to them as being – at least partially, if not completely – due to that characteristic.

    Does not matter if it is perceived intelligence, or luck, or faith, or skin color, being a point of focus makes it so.

    What the state mostly is is statist. Everything else is secondary or even less.

  18. I make a big amount online work . How ??? Just u can done also with this site and u can do it Easily 2 step one is open link next is Click on Tech so u can done Easily now u can do it also here Click Here For More Detail.

  19. I am making a good pay from home 1900 Buckets/week, that is brilliant, beneath a year agone i used to be unemployed amid a monstrous economy. I pass on God consistently i used to be invested these bearings, and at present, I should pay it forward and impart it to everyone…………… SeeMore here

  20. Radley never provided any evidence that “the system” was designed to be racist. The US has no single system, and Jim Crow was only in the South. How exactly was “the system” designed to be racist, and how exactly does that continue today? Let’s look at northern cities, like Baltimore, where The Wire was set.

    I’m a bit disappointed that I listened to a 1.5-hour debate and received few useful proposals for the way forward. Mangual’s suggestion of harsher sentencing was ludicrous–the US already has the world’s highest incarceration rate. It seems to me that the criminal-justice system is clogged with vice-related crime.

  21. Thanks admin for giving such valuable information through your article . Your article is much more similar to https://www.bocsci.com/product/denufosol-cas-211448-85-0-292592.html word unscramble tool because it also provides a lot of knowledge of vocabulary new words with its meanings.

  22. I’ve been a big fan of Balko for many many years, yet I think he did more to shoot down his own argument than Mangual did.

    1) It’s not convincing that the absence of actual racists is proof in systemic racism simply because black people are disproportionally affected.
    2) OK, so middle income people left and created their own towns to get away from schools and neighborhoods that were being crapped-up by busing and HUD. Racism? Maybe. Or maybe middle-income people of all races don’t want to be the last ones left in a town that is going downhill.
    3) So maybe the one county in Missouri having all these little cities is the cause of the problem. Why, then, is this problem not isolated to Missouri? How do you explain the problem throughout the rest of the country? The common denominator across the country isn’t little cities.
    4) It doesn’t help his case that these racist cities have been completely run by black politicians for decades.

    Balko does great work on police militarization, but his arguments for systemic racism aren’t solid enough.

Please to post comments