The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University today suggesting reforms that it said police, prosecutors, judges and parole and probation officers can make to reduce racial disparity in the criminal justice system. The center noted that controversies in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and Charleston, S.C., have helped reopen the national debate on race, crime, and punishment. Part of that debate, said the center, includes the racial disparity in U.S. jails and prisons, where people of color are disproportionately represented.
The new recommendations, based on input from 25 criminal justice leaders, include “increasing public defense representation for misdemeanor offenses, encouraging prosecutors to prioritize serious and violent offenses, limiting the use of pretrial detention, and requiring training to reduce racial bias” for all justice system employees, Brennan said. The center said the reforms can be implemented without legislative approval. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts wrote in a foreword to the report that, “we lock up too many – especially people of color – for too long, without a clear public safety rationale. This report provides local actors with a roadmap to modernize how we enforce criminal laws.”