The Prison Policy Initiative research finds disparities in the criminal justice system haven’t changed in the last decade, despite debates about addressing mass incarceration.
Wanda Bertram, communications strategist for the group, said decisions at a local level often dictate what happens.
“It has a lot to do with how policing works, and how courts work, and also, in a big way, how social services work,” Bertram outlined. “What social services are and are not being provided to people in these lower-income neighborhoods where often, health care is harder to access, and schools are much worse.”
She noted the research showed members of minority populations also spend more time in prison due to disproportionate sentencing and bail amounts. Every year in North Carolina, at least 128,000 people are booked into local jails.
The report suggested North Carolina’s pretrial policies have driven prison population growth over the last 40 years. According to the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities, about 65% of people in jail are awaiting trial, many because they can’t pay the bond required for their release.
Bertram argued the economic divide ensures lower-income people will continue to face disparities. The report offers potential solutions to counter the trends.
“Those things include getting people off of parole, supervision and probation supervision; strict supervision that’s going to make it more likely that they end up behind bars for just a minor slip-up,” Bertram explained. “It includes reforms to the war on drugs, which is still very active in many places.”
She added other important considerations are community involvement, improved health care and public education as methods to lessen imprisonment and counteract racial bias.
This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.