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Senator Working To Have States Reduce Racial Disparities In Criminal Justice System

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) today introduced legislation he authored to require states receiving funds under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne/JAG Program) to analyze and reduce racial disparities in their criminal justice systems.

“Racial and ethnic disparities have engendered a crisis of public trust in the integrity of the criminal justice system and fueled community perceptions of bias,” said Congressman Cohen.  “My bill would be a critical step toward identifying and eliminating these disparities.”  

The Byrne/Jag Program supports state and local programs in a variety of areas that include law enforcement, prosecution, education and drug treatment.  Under Congressman Cohen’s bill -- the Byrne/JAG Program Accountability Act -- states and localities receiving funds via the federal program would have to implement policies and practices to identify and reduce racial and ethnic disparities within their criminal justice systems without establishing or requiring numerical standards or quotas.  Specifically, the bill would require Byrne Grant recipients to:

  • Establish coordinating bodies of relevant stakeholders to oversee and monitor efforts to reduce racial and ethnic disparities;
  • Identify and analyze key decision points in their criminal justice systems to determine which points create racial and ethnic disparities;
  • Collect and analyze data to identify where racial and ethnic disparities exist in the criminal justice system;
  • Develop and implement a work plan for reducing those disparities based on the data collected; and
  • Publicly report each year on their efforts in the above areas.
 
The measure is supported by the Sentencing Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.

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