North Carolina Promises Big Step Addressing Racial Inequality in the Justice System

By Ayanna Gandhi

NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina state executive leadership—from the state supreme court chief justice to the attorney general—said it was in full support here Tuesday of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order that demands a task force be set up to abolish racial inequity in criminal justice.

“We must acknowledge racial inequities in our systems of law enforcement and criminal justice, and then work to eliminate them. This task force will address policies and procedures that disproportionately burden communities of color.” Black adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than white adults, and this task force will work to change the injustices that factor into that,” said governor.

The group is led by Attorney General Josh Stein and North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls. Other members of the task force range from, but are not limited to, individuals from marginalized populations, representatives of the judicial branch, community policing advocates to state and local law enforcement agencies and justice-involved individuals.

The order would create a Center for the Prevention of Law Enforcement Use of Deadly Force within the State Bureau of Investigation; it would track statistics and improve training related to the use of force.

This task force has been assigned to developing and implementing legislative systems and orders to tackle the issue of racism in the criminal justice system. It will be asked to deliver a viable effective plan before the end of the current year, December 1 of 2020.

Secretary of the Department of Public Safety Erik Hook set new standards into place, to “ensure each division has a duty to intervene policy in place.” He has directed that “divisions conduct policy reviews on use of force, de-escalation techniques, arrest procedures, cultural sensitivity training and internal investigation processes.”

Chief Justice Earls supports the changes, noting “we can stop the use of excessive force by police and we know what is needed to achieve racial equity…now is the time to put that knowledge to work. I am grateful to the Governor and the Attorney General for recognizing that the Judicial Branch has a crucial role to play in eliminating racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and I am committed to a collaborative process with meaningful community involvement to achieve those goals in short order.”

State AG Stein commented that the people that the Task Force will affect will make the change that America has been needing for centuries.

“The Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice will consider and implement strategies to bring about real change in the criminal justice system. For way too long, Black people have not been treated equitably in the United States. We have to fix that,” said Stein. “I look forward to working closely with co-chair Justice Anita Earls and the full Task Force to making North Carolina a safe place for every person, no matter who you are.”

Communities of color are disproportionately affected at each stage of the criminal justice system, with national data showing the following:

  • Black adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than white adults;
  • Hispanic adults are 3.1 times as likely to be incarcerated than white adults;
  • Black drivers are approximately twice as likely as white drivers to be pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic stop;
  • Black defendants are more likely to be jailed before trial than white defendants;
  • The murders of white people are more likely to be solved than the murders of Black people;
  • When Black men and white men are convicted of the same crime, Black men receive a prison sentence that is 20 percent longer;
  • Black women are imprisoned at twice the rate as white women; and
  • Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than are white men, and Black women are 1.4 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than are white women.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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