The League of Women Voters of California recently cosponsored Assembly Bill 2200, or the California Racial Justice Act, which aims to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination in California’s justice system.
The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra of District 27, and other cosponsors include the American Friends Service Committee, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, and NextGen.
The California Unruh Civil Rights Act of 1959 prohibits discrimination in all California businesses based on race. However, no provision of California law distinctly outlaws racial discrimination in the state criminal justice system, where racism and bias continue to be “pervasive and omnipresent”, according to the new bill’s Fact Sheet. (Read the entire Fact Sheet here: https://tinyurl.com/v3tkwhq.)
“California’s legal system is plagued by racial disparities and discrimination in arrest, trial and sentencing… The League of Women Voters of California believes that racial discrimination is a scourge that must be confronted in every sphere – in voting access, in housing, in education, in employment, and now, at long last, in our criminal legal system,” wrote Carol Moon Goldberg, President of the state League in the League’s declaration of cosponsor support on March 26. (Read the entire letter here: https://tinyurl.com/t53m5dh.)
The California Racial Justice Act would prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin in criminal convictions and sentences by allowing persons charged or convicted of a crime to challenge racial bias in their case based on evidence such as the following, as refered to by the Fact Sheet:
- Explicit racial bias, including use of racially discriminatory language, by an attorney, judge, law enforcement officer, expert witness, or juror involved in the case.
- Racial bias in jury selection, such as removing all or nearly all people of color from the jury.
- Statistical disparities reflecting racial discrimination in charging, convictions and sentencing.
“Since a disproportionate number of those unjustly treated by the criminal justice system are likely to be people of color, AB2200 — by giving them a more proactive, effective way to obtain fair treatment — could have a general, reforming effect on how the system treats everyone by raising society’s collective consciousness as to what constitutes unfairness and how to address it,” suggests Ruby MacDonald, President of LWVBAE. “Disappointing lack of cooperation in release of data for statistical analysis from certain agencies of law enforcement, for example, could change with greater empowerment of more voices to obtain important data of use in addressing criminal injustice as a whole.”
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