Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar is defending her statement from Sunday about her role in decreasing the number of incarcerated Black people by 65 percent while serving as a prosecutor from 1999 to 2007 in Hennepin County.
According to the Politifact, the senator took to CNN on State of the Union to back up her stance with host Jake Tapper. However, the fact-checking website found her statement to be only half true.
On the show, Tapper pointed out a study that, “found wide racial disparities in the justice system” when she took office.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, “The ratio of blacks sent to Minnesota prisons compared to whites is the highest in the country. People who are black account for 70 percent of Hennepin County’s drug cases. If convicted, they are sentenced to time behind bars at three times the rate of whites guilty of the same offense.”
Tapper asked Klobuchar about whether she did anything to improve the racial disparities, and she responded that she did, saying she decreased the percentage by 65 percent.
PolitiFact looked into the information finding that her explanation is almost correct for jails, but not for prisons.
In the interview, she didn’t specify whether she meant jails or prisons, but she later followed up with CNN to clarify that her statements applied to jails.
Based on research from the Vera Institute of Justice, which collects information on topics about criminal justice, the incarceration rate in Hennepin County did drop significantly for jails but not as much for prisons.
The African-American incarceration rate was 946 per 100,000 when Klobuchar served as county attorney in 1999. During her last year in office in 2006, the rate fell to 287 per 100,000, meaning a 70 percent decline during that time period.
The site also noted that the decline in the county isn’t a part of the national decline, which means that number is “notable” under Klobuchar’s part.
Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, said, “the decline in the jail rate (under Klobuchar) is quite substantial,” when he was provided the information.
Experts did note that, although the senator’s policy may have contributed to the drop in African-American incarceration rates in the county, there are other factors such as changes in policing practices or fewer arrests, among others, that have influenced the difference.
“Overall, it’s much more likely that a combination of factors produced these outcomes, though certainly prosecutors have a role to play,” Mauer said.