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WLC in the NEWS: Racial Disparities Report -- Press Coverage to Date


Press Coverage from Friday, July 14, 2013 Press Conference on the Release of the WLC Report on Racial Disparities in DC Arrests:

Washington Post

ABC News 7-Channel 8 (Part Four)

Deutsche Welle

Legal Times

WAMU 88.5FM (NPR)

WTOP  

UPI 

Huffington Post

NBC Channel 4

The Washington Informer


eNews Park Forest

WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE RELEASES

GROUNDBREAKING REPORT ON RACIAL DISPARITIES IN

ARRESTS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs released at a press conference today a groundbreaking report on racial disparities in arrests in the District of Columbia.

The press conference, held at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s offices (11 Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036), was attended by a blue-ribbon advisory panel of distinguished senior and retired judges, along with the team of lawyers from Covington & Burling LLP, who were the principal authors of the report.

The members of the Judicial Advisory Panel were: John M. Ferren, Senior Judge, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Rufus G. King III, Senior Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia; James Robertson, Retired Judge, United States District Court for the District of Columbia; Ricardo M. Urbina, Retired Judge, United States District Court for the District of Columbia; Patricia M. Wald, Retired Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Also attending the press conference were the Committee’s Executive Director Rod Boggs, the Committee’s DC Prisoners’ Project Director Deborah Golden, and the former Director of the DC Prisoners’ Project Phil Fornaci.

The report, Racial Disparities in Arrests in the District of Columbia, 2009-2011: Implications for Civil Rights and Criminal Justice in the Nation’s Capital includes a detailed analysis of more than 142,000 arrest records for the period 2009 – 2011.

The data analyzed in the report revealed significant racial disparities in arrests throughout the three years studied, and includes the following key findings:

  • More than 8 out of 10 arrests were of African Americans.
  • District wards with more African American residents witnessed far more arrests.
  • More than 19 out of 20 arrests were for nonviolent offenses.
  • Nine out of 10 individuals arrested for drug offenses are African American.
  • Six out of 10 drug arrests were for simple possession, and nearly 9 out of 10 arrests for possession involved African American arrestees.
  • Wards with a high percentage of African American residents accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of all drug arrests.                  
  • While there are significant disparities between whites and African Americans in drug arrests, drug use survey data showed much less disparity in drug use among the two groups.
  • Nearly 7 out of 10 traffic arrests were of African Americans.
  • Eight out of 10 individuals arrested for disorderly conduct were African American or Hispanic.

The report’s conclusions raise important policy issues and propose a number of key recommendations to address the significant racial disparities.

Policy implications include the negative impact of needless arrests, significant financial costs to taxpayers and the justice system, and disparity in the perception of fairness and trust in criminal justice.

The report’s policy recommendations and next steps include:

  • In-depth investigation into factors generating disparate racial impact. The follow-up investigation called for in this report should assess these and other possible explanations for the observed racial disparities in arrests, should evaluate the rationale for the policing practices employed in affected neighborhoods, and should consider whether changes to the underlying laws or to policing procedures and practices might alleviate the disparate racial impact this report has demonstrated. The Committee recommends that the investigation be conducted by an independent body that has full access to relevant data, has the ability to question and obtain additional information from appropriate law enforcement officials, and would report its findings publicly.
  • Community review. The Washington Lawyers’ Committee recommends convening community forums in neighborhoods of the city where the most glaring racial disparities in arrest statistics have been identified to solicit community testimony on the patterns noted in the report.  This effort would be undertaken in conjunction with a coalition of local community and civil rights and civil liberties organizations.
  • Drug policy reform. As an immediate priority in light of the overwhelming racial disparities identified in arrests related to misdemeanor drug offenses, and marijuana arrests in particular, the Committee supports: (1) a renewed focus in the District of Columbia and as matter of national policy on treating drug abuse as a public health concern rather than a primary focus of the criminal justice system; and (2) determining the extent to which the use of certain currently illegal drugs should be decriminalized or legalized.
  • Continuing research. The striking findings of racial disparities in arrests provide compelling support for going forward with the Committee’s plans for undertaking two related follow-up studies. The first of these studies will examine the conditions of confinement faced by the thousands of District residents currently incarcerated and the limitations on liberty affecting city residents under the continuing supervision of the criminal justice system. The second study will assess the collateral consequences under District of Columbia and federal law of arrest and conviction records, which the Committee believes adversely affect thousands of city residents, mostly African Americans. 

“The Washington Lawyers’ Committee believes that the striking racial disparities identified by this report have profound consequences for civil rights in our city,” said Rod Boggs. “These issues require the immediate attention of our elected officials, law enforcement personnel, and the general public.”

 

About the Washington Lawyers’ Committee: www.washlaw.org        

Established in 1968 to provide pro bono legal services to address discrimination and entrenched poverty in the Washington, DC community, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has since successfully handled thousands of civil rights cases on behalf of individuals and groups.

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NBC Channel 4 (7.31.13): http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Report-83-Percent-of-Those-Arrested-in-DC-Are-Black-217837431.html

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