Let’s Stop Talking About Criminal Justice

How do I describe my work? I represent men and women controlled by the criminal court system, the carceral system, in prison or jail. But I don’t call it the criminal justice system. I can’t find justice in it.

The United States is 5% of the world’s population. We have 25% of the world’s prisoners.

49.5% of DC’s population is African-American.
91.1% of DC’s jail inmates are African-American.


Supermax prison Florence ColoradoNearly 70% of DC jail inmates are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses.


About half of the men and 82% of the women in DC jails do not have a high school education.

30-40% of the people in DC jails have a mental health disability.

In 2007-2011, more than 8 out of 10 arrests in DC were of African Americans.
More than 19 out of 20 arrests were for nonviolent offenses.
And despite pretty equally distributed drug use, 9 out of 10 people arrested for drug offenses were African American.

DC prisoners make up about 2% of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The BOP population is 37% Black. DC prisoners are between 6.5% and 9.1% of the entire federal supermax prison population in Florence, CO.

A Black man in this country has a 1 in 3 lifetime chance of being sentenced to prison.
A White man, 1 in 17.

Justice? Not in this system.


Deborah Golden
is the Director of the DC Prisoners’ Rights Project at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. Follow her at @DebGoldenDC

Copyright © 2008-2018 Washington Lawyers' Committee