Black Service Members Face Punishment Bias


071020-N-4657D-019 ATLANTA (Oct. 20, 2007) - Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Kennith D. Black pays close attention as Force Master Chief David R. Pennington discusses several points about full-time service with members of the Naval Enlisted Reserve Association (NERA) and reservists at Navy Operational Support Center Atlanta. Pennington was part of a panel discussion during NERA's 50th Annual National Conference. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Dallas (RELEASED)
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Black service members are significantly more likely to face military punishment than their white colleagues, according to a new report that alleges rampant racial bias in the military. The non-profit advocacy group Protect Our Defenders sifted through almost a decade’s worth of government data obtained via Freedom of Information Act looking for clear disparities in the judicial treatment of white and black military personnel.

“The data shows that, for every year reported and across all service branches, black service members were substantially more likely than white service members to face military justice or disciplinary action, and these disparities failed to improve or even increased in recent years,” the report stated. “Depending on the service and type of disciplinary or justice action, black service members were at least 1.29 times and as much as 2.61 times more likely than white service members to have an action taken against them in an average year,” according to the report.

Protect Our Defenders received data from four service branches — and found a higher proportion of discipline against black service members in all four. Black members of the Air Force were 71 percent more likely to “face court-martial or non-judicial punishment than white air force members in an average year,” the group said. In the Army, black soldiers were 61 percent more likely to get “general or special court-martial compared to white service members.” And in the Navy, black sailors were 40 percent more likely than white sailors to be referred to special or general court-martial, the report said.

Once referred, whites and blacks were equally likely to be convicted, the study found. One of the biggest discrepancies came out of the Marine Corp where black Marines were 2.61 times more likely than white Marines to receive a guilty finding at a general court-martial. In non-judicial punishment proceedings black Marines were 32 percent more likely to be found guilty than whites in an average year, the report said.

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