NORFOLK — service members were 40 percent more likely than white service members to be referred to a court-martial over a two-year period examined by an advocacy group that focuses on military justice.
The report released Wednesday by Protect Our Defenders examined military justice data from the Navy, , Army and Air Force, and found that service members were much more likely than white service members to face military justice or disciplinary action.
“Protect Our Defenders calls on Congress to investigate these new findings and provide recommendations for fixing this problem that affects every branch of the Armed Forces. Military leadership has been aware of significant racial disparity in its justice process for years, and has made no apparent effort to find the cause of the disparity or remedy it,” retired Col. Don Christensen, former chief prosecutor of the Air Force and president of Protect Our Defenders, said in a statement.
The report showed that service members were as much as twice as likely as white service members to have a disciplinary action taken against them in an average year.
The group reviewed data from each branch from 2006 to 2015, although the Navy only provided complete information for 2014 and 2015. The report says airmen were 71 percent more likely to face court-martial or non-judicial than white airmen, were 32 percent more likely to receive a guilty finding at a court-martial or non-judicial proceeding than white , and that soldiers were 61 percent more likely to face a special or general court-martial compared with white service members. The Coast Guard said it was not able to provide the data Protect Our Defenders requested.
The Navy’s data showed that sailors referred to a special or general court-martial were 1.37 times more likely to see action taken against them in the case in an average year.
But the report notes that the disparity between and white sailors “nearly disappeared when considering only post-referral outcomes.”
“ sailors were about equally likely as white sailors to be diverted from harsher military justice action or to receive a conviction at special or general court-martial. However, because sailors were initially referred at higher rates, they remain disproportionately impacted by the military justice system,” the report says.
The Navy did not immediately have a comment on the report Wednesday.
The report recommends that the military justice system should be reformed so legally trained military prosecutors determine whether to refer a case to court-martial instead of the commander of the accused. The report also recommends that each branch collect and publish consistent racial and ethnic data regarding military justice outcomes and for data on victims to be collected to determine whether there might be bias regarding victims of particular races.
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