Amazing things are happening on the criminal justice front.
On Monday, August 12th, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of New Yorkers of color, calling it a "policy of indirect racial profiling" that has led to officers routinely stopping "blacks and Hispanics who would not have been stopped if they were white." In a lengthy and comprehensive decision, Judge Scheindlin found that New York officials demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures and the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. And she concluded that "the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner.”
The same day, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech to the American Bar Association calling for "sweeping, systemic changes" to the American judicial system, and urging "a frank and constructive dialogue about the need to reform a broken system.” Holder noted the President's long-standing commitment to addressing racial profiling, and stated that "people of color often face harsher punishments than their peers" in the current system. In a three-page memo also released on Monday, Holder outlined changes for federal prosecutors, stating that "in some cases, mandatory minimum and recidivist enhancement statutes have resulted in unduly harsh sentences and perceived or actual disparities that do not reflect our Principles of Federal prosecution."
These momentous events present a tremendous opportunity to raise our voices for criminal justice reform and, especially, an end to racial profiling and other forms of racial bias. To support those communications, The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to offer our Messaging Memo on Promoting an End to Racial Profiling.
The Memo recommends, among other things:
Leading with shared values, particularly Equal Justice, Fairness, Public Safety, Accountability, Human RightsOther Opportunity Agenda tools that may be helpful include:
Acknowledging America's progress toward greater racial equity, then amply documenting discrimination and other barriers.
Highlighting solutions that ensure equal justice and protect public safety.
Explaining why profiling harms all of us and our society.
Defining the term "Racial Profiling": "The practice of stopping, searching, or detaining people because of their race, religion or accent, instead of based on evidence of wrongdoing."
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We congratulate our colleagues at the Center for Constitutional Rights, the New York Civil Liberties Union, Latino Justice PRLDEF, and the Bronx Defenders on their landmark victory on racial profiling. And we thank the President and Attorney General for their much-needed leadership toward reforming our broken criminal justice system.