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SAVE Asks, ‘Why Are Groups Pushing to Incarcerate Even More Black Men?’

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Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


SAVE Asks, ‘Why Are Groups Pushing to Incarcerate Even More Black Men?’

WASHINGTON / May 17, 2021 – Despite long-standing disparities by the criminal legal system in its treatment of Black men, groups are currently pushing for changes that are likely to worsen such disparities. SAVE urges an about-face on consideration of these proposals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black men are more likely than Black women to be victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking committed by a partner (1):

  • Black men: 1.47 million victims, annually (Table 5.6)
  • Black women: 1.38 million victims, annually (Table 5.3)

But studies reveal that ironically, Black men are more likely than Black women to be arrested for domestic violence (2). The “criminalization of social problems has led to mass incarceration of men, especially young men of color,” according to the Ms. Foundation for Women (3).

Inexplicably, current proposals for criminal justice change are likely to worsen the problems of wrongful arrests and convictions of Black men:

  1. Expanded Definitions of Crimes: The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill, H.R. 1620, that would expand the definition of domestic violence to include “verbal, psychological, economic, or technological abuse.” (4) A Black man who is falsely accused of such broadly defined actions would find it difficult, if not impossible to defend against the claim.
  2. Affirmative Consent: Two years ago the American Bar Association House of Delegates debated a controversial proposal to re-define consent as “consent to engage in a specific act of sexual penetration, oral sex, or sexual contact.” (5) This definition would expose any Black man who gives unconsented good-night kiss to an accusation of sexual assault.
  3. ‘Victim-Centered’ Investigations: Controversial investigative methods known as “victim-centered,” “trauma-informed,” or “Start By Believing” eliminate impartiality and remove the presumption of innocence (6). For example, the Abby Honold Act, introduced in both the Senate (S. 119) and House of Representatives (H.R. 649), would promote such methods (7).
  4. Mens Rea: At the American Law Institute, activists are arguing for weakened mens rea standards, making it easier to obtain sex crime convictions where there are simple misunderstandings between two people, not an intent of one person to injure another (8). Debate on the mens rea topic will continue at the ALI annual meeting on Tuesday, May 18.

Due process for Black men is a concern on college campuses, as well (9).

Last week the Eugene/Springfield, Oregon chapter of the NAACP issued a statement in support of campus due process, announcing its “full support for the change in regulations to allow for substantive due process for all students accused of misconduct in our universities and college campuses” (10).

Nearly one year after George Floyd’s tragic death launched a national conversation on our criminal legal system, SAVE urges lawmakers, civil rights advocates, and others to ask, “Why are certain groups pushing for legal changes that will worsen the problem of mass incarceration of Black men?”


  3. Safety and Justice for All. New York, 2003, p. 17.