NC governor’s task force for racial equity in criminal justice starts work

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- After public calls for police reform, a new task force is now addressing racial equity in the criminal justice system. More than 20 appointed members will work to develop concrete solutions.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice met for the first time Friday morning.

In a virtual meeting, the governor told the members he understood conversations about race relations can be difficult and uncomfortable. He charged the task force with not only having conversations but coming up with concrete solutions like legislation.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a point in time where I have seen more eyes open about this issue,” said Cooper.

Those eyes were opened partly through recent protests stemming from George Floyd’s death.

“There is palpable energy in our streets of our state for reform because black lives matter,” said Attorney General Josh Stein during the meeting .

The task force will focus on all aspects of criminal justice- from the role of race in charges all the way through sentencing. Secondly, the group will look at law enforcement accountability. That covers use of force, recruitment, and everything in between.

“We have challenges but most of all, opportunities. Opportunities and timing is very important and I think this is the time that we address these issues,” said Ronnie Smith, president-elect of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

Source: North Carolina Institute of Medicine

The task force this comes as the North Carolina Institute of Medicine reported that while Blacks/African American are imprisoned at higher rates and tend to face harsher punishment. They found while they only make up 22% of the state’s population, they made up for more then 50% of the prison population. Whites in North Carolina made up 40% of the prison population while making up 64% of the state population.

A report published by NCIM this year also found that while drug use rates were lower in the Black community, they were “6.5 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses”.

Source: The Sentencing Project

The Sentencing Project performs research to promote reform in sentencing policies, racial disparities in the prison system and alternatives to incarceration.

The map above shows in North Carolina, Blacks are four times more likely to be imprisoned than whites. The state did better when it came to ratios for the LatinX community coming up even in incarceration rates.

In a report titled The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons, the Sentencing Project said across the country, Black Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites.

It found North Carolina was one of 12 states in which Blacks make up more than half the prison population.

The report found in North Carolina one in 37 inmates are black men. Vermont had the smallest ratio with one in 14 inmates being Black. Hawaii ranked the most disproportionate ratio with Blacks men making up one in every 61 inmates.

The Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice was scheduled to meet twice a month. They are expected to come up with a final report by Dec. 1, 2020.

A majority of their meetings will be viewable to the public via Zoom or YouTube. There are plans for public comment-only sessions as well.

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