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The Champion

June 2009 , Page 62 

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Law Student Essay Competition: The Role of Diversity in the Criminal Justice System

By Jason A. Coe

Editor’s Note: This spring NACDL’s Diversity Task Force sponsored an essay contest for law students interested in criminal defense. Congratulations to Nicholas Mills (first prize), Meghan Shapiro (second prize), and Jason Coe (honorable mention). The first and second place essays will be published in an upcoming issue of The Champion. 

In the context of an increasingly diverse society, our goal of fair and even application of criminal laws and punishments raises important questions: What unfairness arises when we uniformly apply our criminal laws, procedures, and punishments to those who, because of their different backgrounds, are unable to fully understand them? To what extent, if any, should our interest in uniform, evenhanded application of our laws yield in order to lessen that unfairness? More generally, these two questions can be restated by asking how a fair and uniform criminal justice system can be made accessible to those in our society with diverse backgrounds.

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