John Lott is unimpressed with Loury's argument. The gist:
Charges of racism flow freely in Professor Loury’s recent book and this essay. He makes it seem that we lock up blacks because whites are afraid of them or that we simply dislike them and want to keep them locked up and away from the rest of society. But Loury forgets an important fact: for violent and property crime there is always an individual victim who gets hurt — for black criminals that victim is overwhelmingly black. Nor does he recognize how extremely progressive criminal penalties are. He also neglects acknowledging that we can’t determine if the number of people in prison is “too high” without discussing the benefit from prison — without discussing how many crimes were deterred.
Many blacks have their lives disrupted by the criminal justice system, but the lives and property of many blacks are also protected by that same system. Looking at only the cost of imprisonment seems a very strange way to answer the question of whether we should change the current system.
I'm really lookin forward to the rest of the replies, and to the subsequent blog chat. I find myself fairly sympathetic both to Loury and Lott, which gives me the sense that many elements of their positions are not mutually exclusive.