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Racial and Ethnic Disparities

“Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.”

- Shirley Chisholm

NACDL has been committed to examining race as an issue within the criminal justice context.  Our CLE programs most recently Presidential Summit Race Matters and State Criminal Justice Network Conferences have often included panels discussing racism in the criminal justice system.  We have also developed stand-alone webinars and conferences that address race as a systemic issue encompassing the criminal justice system.  In addition, on Thursday, October 16, 2014, NACDL hosted a webinar entitled Under Siege: The Defense Bar Examines Police Militarization, Ethnic & Racial Dynamics of Sentencing, and Their Impact on Criminal Justice OutcomesThe webinar was in response to the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri subsequent to the police killing of an unarmed black teenager; and the ensuing swift and extreme police response.

We will continue these efforts August 23-25, 2018 at a Presidential Summit concurrent with our 17th Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference. 

The event entitled Shattering the Shackles of Collateral Consequences: Exploring Moral Principles and Economic Innovations to Restore Rights and Opportunity is our opportunity to shed light on how the pervasive collateral consequences and legal barriers that arise from contact with the criminal justice system are, in particular as they relate to race.

NACDL's Presidential Summit & Seminar: "Race Matters: The Impact of Race on Criminal Justice"

September 14-15, 2017 Detroit, Michigan

Race Matters in our criminal justice system. It affects what happens from initial contact with police on the street, to the end of the case and everything in between. As part of being effective advocates for our clients, criminal defense lawyers face the challenge of confronting the difficult issues presented by race in America. This inaugural Presidential Summit was designed to help practitioners identify and confront issues of racial bias in our courts, the law enforcement community, by prosecutors, and yes, even the defense team. Attendees heard from trial lawyers, academics, and formerly incarcerated individuals who offered their personal perspectives, strategies, and ideas on why Race Matters. This program was created to intentionally challenge you to push the envelope on your understanding of and willingness to attack racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Videos of presentations at the summit, as well as PDFs of any written materials associated with each presentation are available at the following link: https://www.nacdl.org/2017-Race-Matters-Summit/.

Under Siege


On Thursday, October 16, 2014, NACDL hosted a webinar entitled Under Siege: The Defense Bar Examines Police Militarization, Ethnic & Racial Dynamics of Sentencing, and Their Impact on Criminal Justice Outcomes. The webinar was in response to the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri subsequent to the police killing of an unarmed black teenager; and the ensuing swift and extreme police response.

The webinar also explored the plethora of polarizing issues including racism, implicit bias, disparate sentencing policies, as well as, the over-policing of minority and poor communities.

Panel I-The Issues, addressed militarization, ethnic & racial dynamics of sentencing and their impact on criminal justice outcomes. Panel II-Community Perspective and Solutions examined the historical and systemic issues associated with crime and the response of police to those communities most affected by crime. The panel also addressed solutions policy makers and communities can make to solve these issues on the local, state and federal level.

In addition, several resources that framed the discussion or were referenced during the event can be found here:

Racial Disparity Project

Since 2012, NACDL has embarked upon an important and timely project addressing racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system. NACDL, along with the Brennan Center for Justice, the New YorAngelyn Racial Disparities Conference 2013 smallk County Lawyers' Association, the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, initiated the project with a two and a half day convening entitled Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System, culminating with the release of academic articles recently published in the New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy. The articles are available for download here.

Elements of the project have included the October 2012 convening; a report detailing recommendations generated from the convening; a series of articles on race published in The Champion magazine; a three-part podcast featuring organizers of the conference discussing the goals and objectives of the convening and subsequent report; the second convening entitled Criminal Justice in the 21st Century: Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: Advancing the Reform Dialogue Through Action with links to the webcast;and the New York Journal of Legislation and Public Policy academic articles are the final elements of this major undertaking. The Journal series features articles from leading academics on the issue of race and ethnic disparity in the criminal justice system. In addition many of the academics participated on panels related to their articles.

For more information about the project, please contact Angelyn C. Frazer at (202) 465-7642 or via email at afrazer@nacdl.org.

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