May 30, 1908
Auditor John P. Goss reports the number of, and cost of maintaining, white and black prisoners in Virginia jails; the differences in cost make evident that “many white folks are not receiving the kind of punishment to which they are entitled.”
The Richmond, Va. News-Leader in its issue of the 22nd inst. Published the following which will explain itself: John P. Goss, one of the clerks in the office of Auditor Marye, has a penchant for figure in making comparisons of the criminal and other expenses of the State. The question of cost and criminal expenses as between whites and blacks was suggested the other day, and Mr. Goss, in order to get an idea of what the proportion was, took the reports and accounts submitted within the last few days, as made to the auditor and as paid by the State. The figures below give the number of white and colored prisoners in the cities and counties mentioned and the sums paid for keeping, board, and clothing, and does not include the medical treatment or medicines furnished: The apparent difference in the cost of keeping the prisoners is due to the fact that the counties do not make reports as often as the cities, the counties not having monthly terms of courts. It will be seen that out of a total of 300 prisoners, less three, in the places named, three-fourths are Negroes. We would have our readers draw upon their imaginations as to the relative number of white and colored people, who would be in jail, if all of the officers of the law were Negroes instead of being white men and also to the fact that the cost of maintaining these same Negroes goes into the pockets of the white sheriffs or the commonwealth, who find it profitable business to keep them in the jails. Still, the showing is bad enough for us and we advise out people to live upright, Christian lives and to remember that it is not a case where many of these worthless Negroes do not deserve the punishment that they are receiving, but that there are so many white folks, who are not receiving just this kind of punishment to which they are entitled. We pause to remark that we wish the next time Mr. John P. Goss goes searching for statistics that he will dig up some in our favor and let alone for a while those that are to our detriment. It seems to us that according to the report of Auditor Marye, upon the two-thirds valuation plan that the colored people of Virginia own property, real and personal to the value of thirty million dollars.
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“Criminal Statistics,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed January 17, 2018, http://blackvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/562.