Monday, June 3, 2019

Racial disparities in the military criminal justice system

A newly released Government Accountability Office report suggests black and Hispanic servicemembers are facing investigations and general courts-martial at a higher rate than their white counterparts across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. (The Coast Guard did not collect sufficient demographic data.) 

The military prides itself on its history of integrating the services ahead of the United States’ full integration of the Jim Crow South. This initial GAO assessment suggests the military has not solved the broader cultural problem of racial disparities in criminal justice before the rest of society. (Although the report found no significant differences regarding conviction rates and sentence inequality among racial groups.)   

The GAO report was generated by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The report looked at the period from 2013-2017 to gather its data and found that the services had not adopted uniform standards for data collection. Future analysis should have more complete data, as the Department of Defense directed the services to collect uniform data on race and ethnicity related to the processing of military justice cases. Hopefully. with more complete data the military can take steps to correct any racial imbalances in how it investigates and prosecutes criminal cases.

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