A look at the three strikes law and truth in sentencing

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A look at the three strikes law and truth in sentencing

One hour later, Garner was pronounced dead. The Wall Street Journal. Homicide Studies, 16 178— Arrest-Related Deaths, —Statistical Tables. In recent years, police officers have killed African American teenage boys at 21 times the rate of their white counterparts, according to an analysis of the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report, see: Deadly Force, in Black and White.

Officers involved in these killings are rarely indicted, much less convicted, for excessive use of force. The New York Times. And official responses to recent protests have spurred further controversy: Note that police deaths in the line of duty are at a historical low, see: Federal Bureau of Investigation This briefing paper identifies four key features of the justice system that contribute to its disparate racial impact, and presents recent best practices for targeting these inequities drawn from adult and juvenile justice systems around the country.

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In many cases, these practices have produced demonstrable results. Policing is by no means the only stage of the justice system that produces racial disparity. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Jail Inmates at Midyear —Statistical Tables.

A look at the three strikes law and truth in sentencing

But four features of the justice system exacerbate this underlying inequality, and jurisdictions around the country have addressed each one through recent reforms. Many ostensibly race-neutral policies and laws have a disparate racial impact.

Prosecutorial policies, such as plea bargain guidelines that disadvantage blacks and Latinos compound these disparities, as do sentencing laws that dictate harsher punishments for crimes for which people of color are disproportionately arrested.

Recent legislation reducing the sentencing disparity between the use and distribution of crack versus powder cocaine in California, Missouri, and at the federal level are examples of efforts to tackle sentencing inequalities.

Racial disparities in traffic stops have diminished on a nationwide basis in recent years, but persist in many jurisdictions. Police officers are more likely to stop black and Hispanic drivers for investigative reasons. Once pulled over, people of color are more likely than whites to be searched, and blacks are more likely than whites to be arrested.

Prosecutors and judges also often treat blacks and Hispanics more harshly in their charging and sentencing decisions. Similarly, judges in Dorchester, Massachusetts, have worked with police and prosecutors to develop guidelines to reduce racial disparities in charging enhancements for people arrested for drug crimes in a school zone.

Key segments of the criminal justice system are underfunded, putting blacks and Latinos — who are disproportionately low-income — at a disadvantage. Most states inadequately fund their indigent defense programs. Pretrial release often requires money bond, which can be prohibitive to low-income individuals and increases the pressure on them to accept less favorable plea deals.

Many parole and probation systems offer supervision with little support. Public drug treatment programs are also underfunded, thereby limiting treatment and sentencing alternatives for low-income individuals.

In Illinois, the expansion of alternative community programs has helped to nearly halve reliance on secure detention for youth. Criminal justice policies exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities by imposing collateral consequences on those with criminal records and by diverting public spending.

A criminal conviction creates a barrier to securing steady employment, and those with felony drug convictions are disqualified from public assistance and public housing in many areas. In addition, allocating public resources to punitive programs comes at the expense of investments in crime prevention and drug treatment programs.

Because of their higher rates of incarceration and poverty, people of color are disproportionately affected by these policy choices. This initiative is intended to reduce prison admissions and to spare many low-level offenders the collateral consequences of a felony conviction.

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