criminal justice reform

Those Entering Criminal Justice System More Likely To Be Black and Brown: Report

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A new report shows that Black and Hispanic residents continue to make up a disproportionate number of people in Connecticut's justice system. 

“How do we continue to hold our system of policing and system of prosecutors accountable to the racist outcomes that occur?” Claudine Fox of the ACLU of CT says. 

A study and data collection is just the first step, according to the ACLU. 

“We’re still finding that white residents have more of an opportunity to have their case disposed, rather than Black residents,” Fox said.  

Marc Pelka, head of criminal justice policy for the state, says the study wasn’t meant to be a racial disparity study. 

“It analyzed all cases disposed of by the court in 2020,” Pelka says. 

The study found about 28% of all disposed cases in 2020 involved Black residents, who comprise 11% of the state population, Hispanic residents, who make up 17% of the population, were charged in 23% of all disposed cases in 2020, down 3% from 2019. 

White residents comprise 67% of the population and were involved in 46% of prosecutions in 2020, up 3 % from 2019. 

“The study is not a racial disparity analysis. To be clear about its limitations. The study focused on the workflow and operations of prosecutors,” Pelka says. 

The study, the second one of its kind, noted that about 62% of violent crimes in the state are reported in the Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport judicial districts, where about 63% of the state's Black residents and 47% of the state's Hispanic population live.

“Crime is not experienced by victims consistently across the state, there are disproportionate regions and cities, towns and neighborhoods where it is occurring,” Pelka says. 

“When you continue to report out that predominantly Black and brown communities are the most violent communities in our state that provides justification for the overpolicy of Black and brown communities,” Fox says. 

Connecticut’s justice system is unique. 

“Police are actually the ones that file charges here in Connecticut without prosecutorial oversight,” Fox says. 

In other states cases are reviewed by prosecutors before charges are filed. 

“If we just reduce the amount of power that police have in the system to ensure that prosecutors are reviewing charges before a person actually gets locked into the system that actually might have a beneficial impact on the racist outcomes that happen in our criminal legal system,” Fox says. 

According to Fox, incarceration is not the answer. 

“Investing in communities is the way to go and maybe we’ll see a reduction in crime,” Fox added.

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