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Washington, DC (July 17, 2013) – Ed/NACDL:  —In the light of the George Zimmerman trial, there has been renewed interest in the matter of racial composition of juries as well as the high proportion of minority groups in America’s criminal justice system.  So a major report out of the a distinguished group of criminal justice experts is timely.

Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System examines the ethnic and racial divide in the criminal justice system.  It also suggests ways to ameliorate the problem

This conference report came from criminal justice experts that included prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, scholars, community leaders, and advocates for the incarcerated met in New York to review the issues of racial and ethnic disparities.  The discussion surrounding these topics was referred to as “painful.”

The group observes 2.2 million people are imprisoned in America, a number that represents the highest percentage of people relative to the population of any country in the world.  More than half are blacks and Latinos and twice the percentages of their populations in the general population.  This shocking statistic is further acknowledged as meaningful specifically because it demonstrates the imbalance in the justice system.

David LaBahn, President of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys emphasized the value of the report to include an examination of how race plays a part in Federal prosecutions and how economics can be used as a foundation to make major reforms.

Here were some of the additional remarks made at the conference:

  • “In light of the recent outcome of a trial that has galvanized the nation, this report is timely in that it adds critically new insights into the insidious practice of unequal protection of law, fundamental unfairness and the absence of ‘due’ process based on racially disparate treatment within the criminal ‘punishment’ matrix. This report has the potential to become the catalyst for accelerated movement toward system realignment, community empowerment and the elimination of the myriad race-based injustices that comprise the fatally flawed American ‘justice’ process,” said Eddie Ellis, president of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions. 
  •  “Race touches nearly every facet of American life – our criminal justice system being no exception. The recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case has drawn a passionate national debate on race and its impact on the criminal justice system, similar to Emmett Till and the Central Park Five. This report seeks to replace the debate with dialogue. It targets the raw question about how race plays a role from charging through sentencing and the often revolving door of incarceration.” said Geneva Vanderhorst, NACDL Board Member and Chair of NACDL’s Diversity Task Force.
  • “The criminal justice system is a window into a society’s soul.  There is no denying that when we look into that window in America we see racial and ethnic disparity. But thanks to this report, we can also see that solutions are within our grasp if only we have the courage to change,” said NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer.

This project is supported in part by grants from the Ford Foundation and funding by the Foundation for Criminal Justice, the Grennan Center for Justice and the New York County Lawyers’ Association.

The complete report is available here: www.nacdl.org/reports/eliminatedisparity.   A podcast introduction to the report is available here and can also be accessed directly at:http://traffic.libsyn.com/nacdl/CriminalDocketEpisode031.mp3 


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