How Can U.S. Policymakers Fix The Broken Criminal Justice System?

A criminal justice specialist weighs in on a current report to the United Nations detailing systemic bigotry in the United States criminal justice system. Scholars, experts, and scientists invest whole professions trying to reverse the racial variations and discrimination that pervade the United States criminal justice system. A group of such scientists at the Sentencing Project just recently crafted a report to the United Nations on the system’s racial variations. Elder Research Analyst Nazgol Ghandnoosh consulted with Pacific Standard about the report and some methods to fight the racial variations it exposed.

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Your current report talks about systemic bigotry in each “action” of the United States criminal justice system particularly. Why, then, did you send this report to the U.N. instead of straight to a U.S. policymaker? Essentially, we also write a great deal of reports for the public and for policymakers. We offer statements to lawmakers– actually, any policymaker who will listen, we will speak with and write to about [criminal justice] problems. As a body that’s taking a look at these problems throughout the world, the U.N. has a respectable sense of what’s occurring with these problems here in the United States also. The United States is a crucial member of the U.N., and these issues are possibly raised by other peer nations, so this is another possible way to put focus on the need to deal with racial variations [in the United States criminal justice system. The idea is that there’s symbolic value in a U.N. report showing these types of issues in the United States. They cannot make anybody do anything about it, but they can give attention, as a company, these sort of problems and highlight a few of the disgraceful things that need to be resolved in the criminal justice system.

Since the U.N. Special Rapporteur is going to be preparing this unique report on numerous elements of bigotry in the United States and racial inequality, we wished to ensure to give her a common sense of how these concerns were at play in the criminal justice system. At the end of the report, you show numerous methods to fight racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, consisting of ending the War on Drugs. Why should this be a main area to concentrate on? The report tracks racial variations from the very first point of contact that people have (policing) up till people are finished with their criminal sentences. It also takes a look at the security repercussions that they deal with later on. A significant factor that people have contact with law enforcement officer is because of the enforcement of drug laws. That’s one significant point of entry, and it’s also where the racial variations for arrests, convictions, and sentences are most unjustified: Research shows that people use drugs at comparable rates no matter race or ethnic culture. So when a higher number of people of color are entering the system for drug offenses, something is off.

You also recommend the execution of “racial effect declarations, “or declarations that demonstrate how a proposed law might have repercussions for sentencing, probation, or parole policies impacting minorities disproportionately. What is the objective of these declarations, and where might they take place in the criminal justice system? Racial effect declarations] have to do with being more proactive in evaluating the result of the legislation that’s being considered. Usually, the states that have actually executed [the declarations]– Iowa, Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey– their idea is that a lawmaker would require an analysis of the racial effect of proposed costs. That way, we can surpass the argument that the enormously out of proportion effect of the law falling on neighborhoods of color was an unintentional effect of that legislation.