Friday, January 20, 2012

Mississippi: Barbour's "White" Christian Mercy

Just when Haley Barbour thought he had sold the swampland in Florida, comes Reuters with this nugget via University of Georgia statisticians Kim Love-Myers and Jaxk Reeves:
Overlooked in the controversy has been the racial composition of the list of inmates and ex-convicts Barbour pardoned. Barbour granted 222 acts of clemency in his tenure to 221 individuals ... Of those, roughly two of three were white, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Corrections and a search of public records. The racial makeup of Mississippi's prison population is the inverse: about two-thirds' black. Whites make up about 59 percent of the state's population as a whole and blacks about 37 percent.
Barbour, through a spokesperson of course, says that race played no factor in his decisions. A Notre Dame Law School professor, however, says, "At the very least, those numbers raise some very disturbing questions that need to be addressed by the attorney general and even by the U.S. Department of Justice civil rights division." Equally interesting is this piece of information:
... the [State's Parole] board received more than 500 applications during Barbour's eight-year tenure. Of those, just over 250 met the required standards for consideration and were sent on to the governor's office. Among the applications forward by the Parole Board, Warnock calculated that Barbour granted clemency to 185 applicants and denied it to 69 others.
So, now we know that Barbour did not grant clemency to almost 70 individuals whom the Parole Board deemed worthy of "consideration." Now, we just need to know when the recommendations were made, so as to determine how long Barbour sat on the applications.

Professor Love-Myers and Reeves also found that based on Mississippi's prison demographics, white prisoners were about four times more likely to be pardoned than black prisoners. See story here.

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