Racial Issues

The Issue: Racial Injustice

It’s well-documented that unjust policing, prosecution, and incarceration practices, as well as structural discrimination, unfairly impact Black communities. In fact, Black people are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people. 65 percent of Black adults and 35 percent of Latino and Asian adults have felt targeted because of race. Those numbers are unacceptable. The mental, emotional, physical, and financial impact on our communities is a tangible experience for millions of Black people in the U.S.

Biased policing and unfair judicial precedents rooted in anti-blackness and racial disparity shape our criminal justice system, and the cost of that unjust system is high. The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world — 1 in 100 citizens is behind bars. When incarceration is used as the primary response to social problems, individuals, families, and communities suffer.

The current system is skewed against individuals in general, and lower-income and Black communities in particular. That’s partly because the number of former prosecutors and corporate attorneys who sit on the bench greatly outnumber former public defenders and civil rights lawyers. It’s also because structural inequities allow people with lower incomes to be penalized in ways that wealthy people aren’t, systematically affecting Black communities through over-policing, heavy surveillance, and harsher sentencing.


Fighting for Fair Criminal Justice & Public Safety

Building a just system urgently demands reform. Many policies in the criminal justice system unfairly target and/or penalize Black people. We firmly believe we must address these issues with reform of laws and legislation and the help of elected and appointed leaders who truly understand the depth of the problem.

There are a variety of elements to be addressed in the resolution of these issues. We need a fair and balanced judiciary that reflects all aspects of the legal profession. We need to shift resources from prisons to education and community development. We need to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenses, establish treatment for health issues, and end the death penalty.

We support the policy recommendations our National organization made to the Biden Administration to eliminate race-based discrimination in policing, courts, and incarceration, including:
  • Accelerate compassionate release in federal prisons
  • Address racial violence by police and impose national accountability standards
  • Boldly and urgently transform the federal judiciary
  • Fully resource community mental health and substance abuse programs
  • Reform federal prosecutorial standards to eliminate racial disparities

For more details on these policy recommendations, please visit the Race & Justice page on the National NAACP site.

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