Last week the city was buzzing with news that Kwame Kilpatrick may be released early from prison due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Well, that turned out to be #fakenews as the Federal Bureau of Prisons announced that Kilpatrick’s request for home confinement has been denied.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons reviewed Kilpatrick’s request for home confinement on Tuesday and issued the following statement:
“On Tuesday, May 26, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reviewed and denied inmate Kwame Kilpatrick for home confinement. Mr. Kilpatrick remains incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution-I in Oakdale, Louisiana.”
The news of Kilpatrick’s release divided the city with some being supportive of his early release and others calling for him to remain behind bars.
His sentence is scheduled to end Jan. 18, 2037.
This situation that the old adage of don’t believe everything you read. And it also reignited the conversation about America’s history of racial disparity in the criminal justice system.
Let’s look at the facts: Kilpatrick broke several laws, betrayed public trust, abused his power, disgraced himself and the office of mayor and he should certainly be punished. By all accounts he is guilty, but is locking him up for 28 years the remedy?
Incarceration costs an average of more than $31,000 per inmate, per year, nationwide. In some states, it’s as much as $60,000. Taxpayers foot the bill for feeding, housing and securing people in state and federal penitentiaries.
An article, written by Mike Riggs, does the math on keeping Kilpatrick behind bars.
“Taking into account modest cost increases over the course of Kilpatrick’s sentence, it’s fair to say he’ll cost taxpayers at least another half million, and possibly more to keep Kilpatrick in prison,” wrote Riggs. “Not to mention, the federal prison system is 40 percent over capacity. So he will be taking up space that could and should be used for violent felons.”
The next point of contention with Kilpatrick’s sentencing is the racial dynamics in sentencing.
In 2012, the United States Sentencing Commission published an analysis of federal sentencing data, which examined whether the length of sentences imposed on federal offenders was correlated with the demographic characteristics of those offenders. That showed that Black male offenders received longer sentences than White male offenders and that the gap between the sentence lengths for Black and White male offenders was increasing. Studies also show that white Republican judges hand down much longer sentences to Black men than other judges. The judge in the Kilpatrick case was a white woman appointed by George H.W. Bush.
So let’s look at Paul Manafort — a politically connected white man and former Trump campaign manager — who was sentenced to 7.5 years for financial crimes similar to those of Kilpatrick.
Manafort’s sentence stems from two cases in separate federal courts. Guidelines for one case called for 19 to 24 years, while guidelines in another case called for at least 10. Yet judges only hit Manafort with 7.5 years total, and that includes nearly a year of time served.
Back in 2013, Kilpatrick’s sentencing guidelines called for 30 years and he got 28.
Earlier this month Manafort was released to home confinement due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in federal prisons, a lawyer said. His release stirred criticism and complaints of political favoritism because he did not appear to have met the latest guidelines issued by the federal Bureau of Prisons about which inmates were eligible for placement on home confinement.
Under guidelines issued last month, federal authorities said they were approving home confinement for some prisoners who had served at least half of their sentences or at least a quarter of their sentences if they have less than 18 months left to serve.
Manafort, 71, had served about 23 months of his sentence, leaving him well short of the halfway mark and with about 4½ years to serve before his scheduled release date in November 2024, as shown on the bureau website.
At this point, many are asking why the government believes Kwame Kilpatrick is any more of a nuisance than Rod Blagojevich, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti and the slew of other nonminority convicted of similar types of crime who have also seen early prison releases. State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, shares her thoughts on the matter:
“No one is arguing the former mayor’s guilt or innocence,” Gay-Dagnogo said in an email to supporters. “What we’re seeking (to have) is a conversation about … the disproportionate sentencing that men of color experience at every level of the system, and I am appreciative of the invitation and looking forward to having an opportunity with the president or members of his administration to discuss favorably reviewing the former mayor’s existing petition already before the president.”