Lenses

Racial Justice

Unconscious bias—as well as overt racial discrimination—continues to taint the promise of justice for all, and these phenomena are particularly acute within the nation’s criminal justice system, where, for example, black people are incarcerated in state prisons at five times the rate of white people.Ashley Nellis, The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons (Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project, 2016), 14. 

Top Things to Know

  1. Pregnant women with substance use disorders continue to be criminalized and stigmatized.
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  2. Voting rights restoration for people with felony convictions gains momentum in several states—and loses momentum in others.
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  3. “Clean Slate” laws allow people to have their criminal records sealed.
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  4. The year sees an increased focus on women behind bars.
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  5. Attorney General Sessions seeks return to “tough on crime” policies, including an emphasis on mandatory minimums.
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  1. Oregon relaxes drug laws in effort to curb mass incarceration.
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  2. More states introduce “drug-enhanced homicide” bills.
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  3. Hate crimes are on the rise.
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  4. Continued legal battle over Trump’s travel ban brings uncertainty and anxiety.
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  5. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program remains in limbo.
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  6. State and local governments provide representation for immigrants.
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  7. States take their own steps for—and against—immigrants.
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  8. Courts protect against White House targeting of sanctuary cities.
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  9. Challenges to mandatory and prolonged detention work their way through the courts.
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  10. Trump administration expands definition of immigration enforcement priorities.
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  11. Trump administration seeks to increase reach of expedited deportations.
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  12. Safeguarding the needs of LGBT youth proves challenging.
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  13. Girls’ issues come to the fore.
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  14. State and local governments are starting to limit when youth can be locked up.
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  15. Youth of color continue to disproportionately bear the burdens of incarceration.
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  16. Oklahoma is “ground zero” for the rise of women in jails.
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  17. Police shootings continue to occupy public and media attention.
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  18. Survey of police reveals stark racial disconnects.
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  19. DOJ retreats from police oversight agreements.
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  20. Police speak out for—and against—enforcing immigration laws.
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  21. Technology plays an increasingly important—and sometimes troubling—role in policing.
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  22. After a two-year hiatus, police resume militarization.
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  23. Prosecutors are adjusting their practices to avoid putting non-citizens at risk of deportation.
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Facts and Figures

On Our Radar

  • Debate continues over risk assessment tools.
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  • Racial impact statements may help reduce racial disparities in sentencing.
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  • Marijuana legalization is pursued with racial justice as its aim.
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  • More than 300,000 immigrants with legal status face its expiration.
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  • Do immigrant children have a right to appointed counsel?
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  • Advocates are working to reform the immigration bond system.
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  • States and localities are fighting back against draconian immigration policies.
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  • The MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge is supporting systemic reform efforts around the country.
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