Army soldiers more likely to be locked up for minor drug offenses than for sexual assault

ProPublica and the Texas Tribune discovered some startling — although not totally unexpected — things about sexual assault in the Army:

U.S. Army soldiers accused of sexual assault are less than half as likely to be detained ahead of trial than those accused of offenses like drug use and distribution, disobeying an officer or burglary, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune.

The news organizations obtained data from the Army on nearly 8,400 courts-martial cases over the past decade under the Freedom of Information Act and analyzed a process known as pretrial confinement. The resulting investigation of the nation’s largest military branch revealed a system that treats soldiers unevenly and draws little outside scrutiny.

When service members are accused of crimes, their commanders, who aren’t required to be trained lawyers, get to decide whether they are detained before they go to trial.

Soldiers accused of sexual assault are placed in pretrial confinement at lower rates than those charged with some more minor offenses.

On average, soldiers had to face at least eight counts of sexual offenses before they were placed in pretrial confinement as often as those who were charged with drug or burglary crimes, the news organizations found.

That disparity has grown in the past five years. The rate of pretrial confinement more than doubled in cases involving drug offenses, larceny and disobeying a superior commissioned officer, but it remained roughly the same for sexual assault, according to the analysis.

“Justice that’s arbitrary is not justice,” said Col. Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force. “It shouldn’t come down to the whims of a particular commander.”

You can read the rest of the article here.