The Legal Department Criminal Justice Program seeks to eradicate discrimination in all aspects of the criminal justice system. Despite the civil rights victories of our past, racial prejudice still pervades the criminal justice system. The “war on crime” in America is too often waged against innocent individuals who are suspects solely because of the color of their skin. As a result, African-Americans are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested and imprisoned.
As President Mfume stated in April 2000, “[t]he fact of the matter is, if you are a person of color living in the United States, the police often look at you differently and with a level of suspicion. They always have, and until something is done to raise the level of accountability, they will continue to do so.”
Racial disparities affect both innocent and guilty minority citizens. The unequal treatment of minorities in our criminal justice system has manifested itself in a national prison population that is overwhelmingly African-American. The unequal targeting and treatment of minorities throughout the criminal justice process –from arrest to sentencing — reinforces the perception that drives the inequality. More minority arrests and convictions perpetuate the belief that minorities commit more crimes, which in turn leads to racial profiling and more minority arrests. As a result of this pervasive problem, the 2000 U.S. Census found that one in every 20 black men over the age of 18 was in prison.
The NAACP Legal Department is committed to ending this over incarceration of African-Americans and has been leading the charge in our communities and our courtrooms to end this systematic injustice.