18
October , 2017
Wednesday

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From Marc Mauer

The Sentencing Project

I’m pleased to announce a new publication from The Sentencing Project highlighting initiatives in more than 20 states designed to address the criminal justice system’s high rate of contact with people of color. Black Lives Matter: Eliminating Racial Inequity in the Criminal Justice System provides a comprehensive review of programs and policies across the nation and identifies a broad range of initiatives that can address racial disparities at all levels of the criminal justice system.

In the wake of the tragedies in Ferguson and other cities, excessive police contact has been identified as a major cause of the disproportionate rate of fatal police encounters for African Americans and Latinos. Policing is just one of many stages of the justice system in which people of color are disadvantaged relative to whites.

The report identifies four key features of the criminal justice system that produce racially unequal outcomes, beyond the conditions of socioeconomic inequality that contribute to higher rates of some crimes in marginalized communities, and showcases initiatives to abate these sources of inequity in adult and juvenile justice systems around the country. In many cases, these reforms have produced demonstrable results, including:

  • Indiana amended its drug-free zone sentencing laws, which imposed harsh penalties on a defendant population that was over 75% African American in Indianapolis.
  • Multnomah County (Portland), OR, revised and removed bias in its risk assessment instrument for determining juvenile detention, reducing African American and Latino youth detention levels by half.
  • Berks County, PA, reduced the number of youth in secure detention – who were primarily youth of color – by 67% between 2007 and 2012 in part by increasing reliance on alternatives including non-secure shelters and expanding use of evidence-based treatment programs.
  • The Milwaukee County prosecutor’s office eliminated racial disparity in charges of possession of drug paraphernalia by instituting case oversight and emphasizing diversion to treatment programs and dismissals.

We hope that this report will serve as a blueprint for policymakers and criminal justice practitioners ready to end both excessive policing and excessive punishment of people of color.

Regards,

Marc Mauer

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