NAACP Urges Swift Enactment of Legislation to Address Racial Discrimination

NAACP Urges Swift Enactment of Legislation to Address Racial Discrimination in the Prosecutorial Phase of the American Criminal Justice System

“Justice Integrity Act”, Introduced in the House, Would Look at the Unwarranted Racial Disparities in the Prosecutorial Phase

Prosecutors are hired to seek criminal convictions for the city, state or nation.  Prosecutors, not judges, have the power and discretion to determine which charge to bring, accept or deny a plea bargain, reward or deny a defendant's substantial assistance or cooperation in the prosecution of someone else and, ultimately, to determine the final sentence of the defendant.   With the advent of mandatory minimum sentences, it is often the prosecutor, not a judge, who decides the sentence length when a person is convicted.   The NAACP supports federal, state and local jurisdictions establishing programs to create local advisory groups charged with collecting and analyzing racial and ethnic minority data on charging, plea negotiations, sentencing recommendations and other factors which may have contributed to the over-incarceration and sentencing disparities of racial and ethnic minority Americans.  Such policy must monitor patterns and practices of prosecutors and document discriminatory trends at every stage of the criminal proceedings.

Specifically, the NAACP supports the Justice Integrity Act, (H.R. 1771), which was introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (TN) in the House of Representatives in the 112th Congress.  This important legislation aims to address the issue of unwarranted racial disparities at every stage of a criminal proceeding in the American criminal justice system.  The Justice Integrity Act would establish 10 pilot programs in which local advisory groups would be charged with collecting and analyzing racial and ethnic data on charging, plea negotiations, sentencing recommendations and other factors involved in creating these disparities. 

It is difficult for Americans of color to have faith and confidence in the American judicial system when we know from experience that we are treated differently, and more often more severely, because of the color of our skin.  This lack of confidence in turn, makes us not only distrustful of the system at every level, but also makes it much less likely that we can trust or are willing 

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