Are You A Racist? – of course you’re not, but what are you doing to combat institutional racism in the criminal justice system? The three photos above were taken in three different courtrooms this morning, and could have been duplicated in many others if time had allowed. Unfortunately, the same scene plays out all over the felony divisions on a daily basis, as the failed War on Drugs and attendant collateral effects continue to take their toll unabated in Broward and elsewhere across Florida.
There is hope, however. For the first time a former public defender is president of the Florida Bar, Michelle Suskauer. Mutual friends have told us she’s a dedicated and caring practitioner, and she has taken unprecedented steps to lead the Bar in the right direction on criminal justice reform. Read her “A Hard Look At Our Criminal Justice System” and a report on “The inaugural Florida Bar Criminal Justice Summit“, commenced under Suskauer’s leadership, a great first step.
Our concern, however, is a familiar one to anyone who has been reading around here since 2006. We don’t see any mention in the report or in her address of the driving problems of selective enforcement and other components of institutional racism that plague the system, and since we weren’t at the Summit, sent this email off to Suskauer earlier today:
“I am writing to inquire as to the steps you and the Bar have taken in regards to criminal justice reform. I have reviewed what is available online regarding a recent symposium, but am not aware if institutional racism, selective enforcement of the laws, overrepresention of minorities in the system, and racial disparity of sentencing of minorities has been addressed or is to be addressed at later dates. Please detail what has been discussed or is to be discussed at future symposiums and meetings to combat the above referenced problems and others along those lines addressed in scholarship by Michelle Alexander (“The New Jim Crow“) and others.”