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Racial Impact Statements as a Means of Reducing Unwarranted Sentencing Disparities

January 02, 2008
One way to address the dramatic racial disparities that pervade the criminal justice system is by adopting racial impact statements as a requirement for consideration of new sentencing legislation.

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. 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.

This article published in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law proposes that one way this problem can be addressed is by adopting racial impact statements as a requirement for consideration of new sentencing legislation. 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.

To read this article, download the PDF below.

 
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