Courtesy of Bristol County Sheriffs Office

Michelle Carter, the woman convicted of convincing her boyfriend Conrad Roy to take his own life, has been released from her sentence of 15 months with no parole on account of good behavior. A white woman who murdered another human being had a lesser sentence than a person of color (POC) received for selling marijuana. This decision is an outrage and an example of how the justice system shows racial disparities and double standards in the U.S.

Roy passed away in July of 2014 after Carter, his then girlfriend, convinced him to commit suicide in a series of text messages. The text messages clearly showed Carter berating Roy into carrying out the act. At one point, Roy almost changed his mind, but Carter was persistent and succeeded in convincing him to take his own life. 

Carter was convicted for involuntary manslaughter soon after. Involuntary manslaughter describes the act of killing someone unintentionally, but Carter’s messages demonstrated her full intent to participate in Roy’s suicide. In this digital age, her actions should be seen as first-degree murder. Society needs to recognize that she didn’t have to be physically present for her to want him dead. Roy wasn’t in a healthy headspace and she took advantage of him. 

Carter’s sentence was undeservingly short lived. On Thursday, Jan. 20, she was released from prison on account of her good behavior. A spokesman at the Bristol County Sheriff’s office went so far as to call her a model inmate. Though she may have been polite to staff and kept out of trouble with fellow inmates, good behavior should not have been enough for her to be released. Several of her sympathizers have tried to justify the situation, stating that she was undeserving of her sentence due to mental illness. Many have tried to advocate for mental help instead of incarceration, even though everyone knows that her actions resulted in the end of another innocent person’s life. The treatment Carter receives from her sympathizers and supporters contrasts starkly with how inmates of color are treated.

The criminal justice system seems to be turning a blind eye to her case because she is a white woman. Her sentence was cut short while many people of color in the same state are incarcerated for years just for selling marijuana, despite the fact that the drug is legal in her home state of Massachusetts. In fact, many POC are sitting behind bars while non-POC are successfully profiting off of selling marijuana. Carter’s case is a clear example of how the justice system has racialized their decisions; white men and women are treated differently from people of color based on the color of their skin. 

In the U.S. justice system, African Americans are 5.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, and Hispanics are 3.1 times more likely to be incarcerated. If Carter were to have been a non-white woman, she probably would have remained behind bars and been given a longer sentence than a mere 15 months. It has been shown that prosecutors are more likely to charge people of color with longer sentences than white people even though they have committed the same crime. This is a huge disparity and it only becomes more explicit when one takes into account the fact that African Americans and Latinos make up 57% of the prison population even though they only make up 29% of the country’s population. Non-POC need to open their eyes and stop overlooking the severity of racial bias in the criminal justice system. 

Mass incarceration has a lot to do with the amount of police contact in a given community. It is less common to see policemen patrolling a white suburban neighborhood. The U.S. is in violation of Article 2 and Article 26 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights to ensure that all residents regardless of race are treated equally under the law. Carter’s release should be America’s wakeup call to start looking at the signs of racial bias in the criminal justice system. 

The justice system in the U.S. is very flawed and the statistics speak for themselves. Someone who took part in taking the innocent life of someone else should not be able to participate freely in society. The U.S. needs to stop turning a blind eye to the obvious injustices people of color face when it comes to incarceration and unfair sentencing.