The Justice Department will begin collecting racial data about stops, searches, and arrests as part of an effort to reduce racial bias in the criminal justice system, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday.
According to Holder, a recent study found half of African-American men had been arrested at least once by the age of 23. Further, he said, in 2012 black men were 6 times and Latino men 2.5 times more likely to end up in prison than white men.
“This overrepresentation of young men of color in our criminal justice system is a problem we must confront — not only as an issue of individual responsibility but also as one of fundamental fairness, and as an issue of effective law enforcement,” Holder said in a video message. “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.”
Holder said the effort stems from President Obama’s call last summer, following the verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, to seek ways to build more trust in communities.
“We are heeding the President’s call,” he said. “This month, the Justice Department is launching a new initiative – the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice – to analyze and reduce the effect of racial bias within the criminal justice system.”
The efforts, Holder announced, will be funded with grants totalling $4.75 million.. The grant recipients are set to be named later in the year.
“Of course, to be successful in reducing both the experience and the perception of bias, we must have verifiable data about the problem,” Holder said. “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.
“We will conduct this research while simultaneously implementing strategies in five initial pilot sites with the goal of reducing the role of bias and building confidence in the justice system among young people of color,” he added. “This work will likely include anti-gang and mentoring projects intended to empower young African-American and Latino males and break the vicious cycle of poverty, incarceration, and crime that destroys too many promising futures each and every day.”