It's not exactly much of a secret to anybody that minority males in America are stopped and arrested disproportionately to whites. But apparently the Department of Justice thinks awarding $4.75 million in grants will help figure out how racist our justice system is. Today Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans to collect data on the matter. Brace yourself for irrelevant Trayvon Martin references:
Noting that African-American and Hispanic males are arrested at disproportionately high rates, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that the Justice Department will seek to collect data about stops, searches and arrests as part of a larger effort to analyze and reduce the possible effect of bias within the criminal justice system.
Attorney General Holder said the project grew out of President Obama's call, issued last July following the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, for the Justice Department to seek to reduce tensions between law enforcement and minority communities.
"Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime," Attorney General Holder said. "Of course, to be successful in reducing both the experience and the perception of bias, we must have verifiable data about the problem. As a key part of this initiative, we will work with grant recipients and local law enforcement to collect data about stops and searches, arrests, and case outcomes in order to help assess the impact of possible bias."
The data collection is one part of the Department's new National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice. It will be funded through $4.75 million in competitively awarded grants. The grant recipients will be named later this year.
Holder's full statement can be viewed here. Unfortunately, much like the administration's approach toward disproportionate punishment handed out to minorities in public school systems, Holder's comments focus more on the "fairness" of the system and less on the scope and size of government authority and the criminalization of personal vices and behavior. There's nothing indicating the administration is interested in reducing the number of people going to prison, just attempting to increase young minority men's "trust" in the government and police by some nebulous idea of fair distribution of police response.
Tip to Holder and Obama: Minority men will never trust police as long as police keep putting them in jail for things that shouldn't be crimes in the first place.
The Department of Justice also recently announced new guidelines for clemency in sentencing hearings. Read more here.