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July 18, 2008

Senator Biden proposes "Justice Integrity Act" to study federal criminal justice disparities

Perhaps because the bill he introduced last week has gotten no press coverage, I only recently learned about Senator Joe Biden's encouraging efforts to examine racial and ethnic disparities in the federal criminal justice system.  The basics of the bill are explained in this press release from Biden's office, which starts this way:

U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, along with Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and John F. Kerry (D-MA), today introduced the Justice Integrity Act, legislation designed to increase public confidence in the justice system and address any unwarranted racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal process.  The Justice Integrity Act will establish advisory groups in ten federal districts, under the supervision of the United States Attorney General, to study and determine the extent of racial and ethnic disparity in the various stages of the criminal justice system; make public reports on the results of their findings; and make specific recommendations to help to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination and unjustified racial and ethnic disparities.

Thanks to a link from the Sentencing Project, the full text of the Biden bill is available here.  Also, a Google search led me to this short letter from the ABA, which expressed strong support for the bill.  The ABA letter starts this way:

[The American Bar Association and its members] express our strong support for the Justice Integrity Act, legislation to examine the cause and extent of racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system and to facilitate the development of proposals for reducing or eliminating racial and ethnic bias where it is found.  We applaud your leadership in introducing the Justice Integrity Act. It provides a thoughtful approach to addressing this issue of great importance to our justice system through supporting the gathering of facts and generation of proposals for reform at the federal district level.

July 18, 2008 at 04:00 AM | Permalink

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Comments

I thought the Sentencing Commission was supposed to be taking care of this...

Posted by: defense attorney | Jul 18, 2008 11:28:07 AM

The high percentage of minorities behind bars is overwhelmingly a function of their crime rate and not bigotry.

Posted by: mjs | Jul 18, 2008 12:42:07 PM

I've always admired and respected Senators Biden and Specter. I would love to see Biden as either president or VP. It's a great challenge that can be resolved for the most part when dealing with the system, but not totally in regards to those working FOR the system.

For instance, how can you show a person his/her biasness when it's unconscious such as in White privilege where Blacks, Whites, and those of other races engage in this type of discrimination unawares?

It's a most beautiful and noble gesture. Those who are part of this reform should be very proud to serve their nation in such a noble fashion.

I'm more than happy with the bar for their position. However, I would like the bar to take action and truly show leadership by sanctioning overzealous prosecutors and judges that fall asleep on the bench during trial with REAL and meaningful sanctions.

We are too technologically advanced today to feed into the politics of fear and hate. Extra legal factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and life-style should NOT be factors to be considered while sentencing or prosecuting a case.

If legislatures do not seek to preserve the integrity of our system and bring forth positive change where those who are being sentenced KNOW they deserve the sentence, our recidivism rates will continue to increase.

Posted by: Angelina | Jul 18, 2008 3:53:36 PM

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