Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How Racial Impact Statements Could Affect Disparity In Sentencing

Michael at Corr Sentencing passes along an article written by his good friend Marc Mauer from the Sentencing Project.

The extreme racial disparities in rates of incarceration in the United States result from a complex set of factors. Among these are sentencing and drug policies which, intended or not, produce disproportionate racial/ethnic effects. In retrospect, it is clear that many of these effects could have been predicted prior to the adoption of the legislation. In order to reduce the scale of unwarranted disparities, policymakers should address the potential racial impact of proposed legislation prior to enactment, rather than after the fact when any necessary reform is more difficult to achieve. One means of accomplishing this would be through the establishment of “Racial Impact Statements.” Similar to fiscal or environmental impact statements, such a policy would enable legislators and the public to anticipate any unwarranted racial disparities and to consider alternative policies that could accomplish the goals of the legislation without causing undue racial effects.

One of the hallmarks of the “get tough” movement over the past three decades has been the relative lack of evaluation regarding both the potential and actual effectiveness of harsh criminal justice sanctions in controlling crime. Typically, when new punitive sentencing legislation is enacted there is little funding or attention devoted to assessing its likely effects, both intended and unintended.1 In addition to limited evaluation of the effects of sentencing policy on crime, there is an even greater gap in addressing concerns relating to the dramatic racial disparities that pervade the criminal justice system.2 This essay proposes that one way this problem can be addressed is by adopting racial impact statements as a requirement for consideration of new sentencing legislation.
Sentencing Project