What happens when, say, mostly men write and judge laws on abortion or mostly whites write and judge laws affecting people of color?
What do you think about a system that underrepresents, say, women in STEM fields or government offices? Do you presume there is something broken in the system?
I got an email about an NYU document: The Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Prison Industrial Complex, May 2019, available here.
The committee introduced itself and the document with,
“The Committee’s formal charge was to examine how the University already addresses mass incarceration and other steps that could be taken in this arena, focusing on the core university missions of research, teaching, and service at NYU on its New York campus.
The following report published May 2019 is an attempt to capture what the committee learned about what is going on at NYU related to justice and incarceration. The report does not provide a complete picture; rather, it documents the state of the committee’s current knowledge.”
U.S. Prisons are full of men, about 2 million. This chart shows the federal prison sex ratio: about 14:1.
The overall U.S. prison and jail population was 90.6 male to 9.4 female, nearly 10:1, when last measured two years ago.
Our justice system imprisons men more than women for similar crimes. A recent study found it sentences men 63% longer for similar crimes and incarcerates men twice as likely. Quoting the paper:
Conditional on arrest offense, criminal history, and other pre-charge observables, men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women do. Women are also significantly likelier to avoid charges and convictions, and twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted. There are large unexplained gaps across the sentence distribution, and across a wide variety of specifications, subsamples, and estimation strategies.
Let’s look at NYU’s paper. I may have miscounted, but I saw the following counts of each word:
“men” : 0
“straight” or “heterosexual”: 0
I can’t tell a person’s sex exactly by their names, but of the 12 committee members, their breakdown appears:
From the Prison Education Program’s staff page, the paid staff breakdown appears:
The three interns appear male.
The Advisory Board breakdown of the Prison Education Program:
Again, when you see a system underrepresenting, say, women in STEM or government, do you presume there is something broken in the system? If a company says, “we just can’t find them,” do you accept it at face value?
What’s happening at NYU? What’s keeping men from these committees studying 90% male populations, documented to be victims of unfair punishment, apparently just for being male, independent of any other factor?
The committee report lists NYU courses on prisons. Given such a huge gap overrepresenting men, even for similar crimes, you’d expect many classes on men’s suffering, right?
Here are the number of classes specifically focusing on some group:
at least as best I could tell. I hope people can show I missed something since I hope I did.
The report lists NYU resources to help prisoners. Here are the number of prison related resources NYU offers on
The report also listed organizations where involved students interned. They included places called “Her Justice” but not “His Justice” and “Women’s Prison Association” but not “Men’s.”
The main prison non-profit I know of is The Innocence Project. It works to exonerate wrongfully convicted people, many from death row. Nearly 99% of these innocent victims are male, serving an average of 14 years.
This report didn’t list anyone working at The Innocence Project, unless I missed it.
What do you think the representation should be?
What do you think the male to female ratio of CEOs should be? Of legislators? Of Supreme Court judges?
If men are 10 to 14 times overrepresented in prison, should they be underrepresented on the ad hoc committee by a factor of 2? Or underrepresented on the staff by a factor of 6?
Did no one on any of these teams notice the discrepancy?
Did people notice but not care?
Did they do anything about it?
Did they address their coverage, staffing, resource, and education ratio gap but I missed it?
Did they care but decide this ratio was appropriate? If so, by what criteria?
Should a school offer zero classes on a group so overrepresented while offering a dozen on other groups?
NYU is quick to police sexism hurting women, racism, and various other unfair biases. What does it take to show compassion, empathy, or awareness of sexism hurting men?
Or did I miss something in the report explaining why NYU offers so much help for so many groups but not the over 90% male population, or the social forces that lead to this situation?
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