According to a press release, on July 13, 2022, a task force will present recommendations to the Washington Supreme Court on reducing and, where possible, eliminating racial disparities in Washington’s criminal and juvenile justice systems. The public presentation is scheduled for 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM, and will be livestreamed and recorded by TVW.
The recommendations come from a work group of Task Force 2.0: Race and Washington’s Criminal Justice System, a project coordinated by the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at the Seattle University School of Law. Presenters will include Korematsu Center Executive Director Professor Bob Chang, Assistant Directors Jessica Levin and Melissa Lee, public defense attorneys, child welfare experts, Pierce County Superior Court Judge André M. Peñalver, and more.
Task Force 2.0 last year presented extensive research to the Supreme Court detailing racially disproportionate treatment and outcomes in the state’s criminal justice system, outcomes significantly impacted by historically racist laws and practices. The follow-up presentation provides recommendations in 14 areas – such as policing and traffic stops, prosecutorial decision-making, pre-trial release, sentencing and prison, community supervision, legal financial obligations and more – as well as recommendations for reforming the juvenile justice system from a special sub-committee.
The Task Force was launched in mid-2020 by the deans of Washington’s three law schools following the death of George Floyd, nationwide protests for racial justice, and the June 4, 2020 Open Letter of the justices of the Washington Supreme Court challenging members of the state judiciary and legal community to recognize racial injustice and take steps to eliminate it.
The Task Force is dubbed “2.0” because it is a re-launch of the Race and Justice Task Force established in 2010 following comments made by two then-sitting Washington Supreme Court justices about criminality and race. That first task force produced a report in 2011 with data that has guided a number of efforts since then, including an annual symposium presented by the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission focusing on specific issues of racial disparity.
My opinion? We’ve GOT to be proud of our WA Supreme Court for being so proactive in resolving racial disparities in the justice system.
The rise of mass incarceration may seem like a recent phenomenon, but it is a repeating pattern throughout this country’s history. From America’s founding to the present, there are stories of crime waves or criminal behavior followed by patterns of disproportionate imprisonment of those forced to the margins of society: Black people, immigrants, Native Americans, refugees, and others.
The result has been the persistent and disproportionate impact of incarceration on people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty. From 1850 to 1940, racial and ethnic minorities—including foreign-born and non-English speaking European immigrants—made up 40 to 50 percent of the prison population. In 2015, about 55 percent of people imprisoned in federal or state prisons were Black or Latino.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.