In the Spotlight

News & Features

By Betsy Cole
Minnesota Public Radio
November, 2001

An overview | Accountability in the justice system | American Indians and the rural justice system | The new disparities | Driving while black
Developed in partnership with the University of Minnesota Law School, the Institute on Law and Poverty focuses on the challenges and constraints of race and poverty on communities, and how policy and perception can be changed to improve the lives of low-income people of color.
From the American Civil Liberties Union, this site examines the issue of racial profiling, including a detailed report on Driving While Black, a collection of profiling anecdotes, and a driver profiling report form.
A report from Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog organization, asserts that although blacks commit drug offenses at a lower rate that whites, blacks are arrested at a disproportionately higher rate.
The St. Paul Police Department and the St. Paul Chapter of the NAACP convened meetings in the Spring of 2001 to address the problem of racial profiling. This report, published in June 2001, outlines the agreement reached by the two agencies. Reiterating its official policy against racial profiling, the Police Department agreed to several steps to ensure law enforcement actions are based on behavior and not appearance.
The concept of an impartial justice system is fundamental to the egalitarian democracy of the United States. Yet in the years since Congress passed a series of landmark civil rights protection acts, racial disparities in the criminal justice system have increased - even as progress is made in other areas of equal rights for America's minorities. This report from outlines the racially biased charging and plea bargaining practices of prosecutors, disparities in sentencing which amount to an overly punative crime control strategy that diproportionately targets minorities.