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July 13, 2022

Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Criminal Justice System

The ABA is committed to eliminating racial and ethnic bias in the justice system by reforming laws and policies that have had a disproportionate and catastrophic impact on Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Laws or policies that appear neutral on their face can nevertheless be implemented systematically in a disparate way, whether based on race, ethnicity, age, disability, or even sexual orientation.

Several stages in the criminal justice system have been identified by the ABA as being at higher risk, including but not limited to the treatment of youth; arrest; use of force; charging decisions; pre-trial detention and cash bail determinations; incarceration for the nonpayment of court fees and fines; sentencing; probation violation determinations; and the impact of a criminal record on an individual’s ability to positively contribute to society.

Federal Legislation

Bills being supported and monitored by the ABA in the 118th Congress include the following:

  • H.R. 2847/S. 1196, Ending Qualified Immunity Act, Rep. Presley (D MA)/Sen. Markey (D MA); would end the legal defense of qualified immunity in suits against the government
  • S. 524, EQUAL Act, Sen. Booker (D NJ) – would equalize sentencing for offenses involving crack vs powder cocaine
  • S. 1677, Democracy Restoration Ac, Sen. Cardin (D MD) – would restore the right to vote in federal election once a person is no longer incarcerated.

ABA Policy and Reports

The following ABA positions and reports have been shared with Members of Congress on Policing Reform and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Bias in the Justice System.

Policy Positions

  • Supports Eight Principles for Law Enforcement Body-Worn Cameras 2021AM604
  • Supports substantially curtailing or eliminating the defense of qualified immunity in civil actions against law enforcement officers to address the deprivation of rights, etc. 2020AM301A
  • Supports legislation, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, that seeks to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement, and build trust between law enforcement and communities 2020AM116A
  • Supports collecting data including demographics of all persons against whom lethal force is used 2020AM116A
  • Supports fair and independent investigation and prosecution when a person dies while in police custody2020AM116A
  • Supports “objective necessity” as the basis for use of force by police 2020AM116A
  • Supports the use of lethal force only when necessary to protect officers or the public 2020MM10B
  • Supports investigation and reporting on the justification for the use of lethal force 2020MM10B
  • Supports the creation of a nationally respected, independent entity to receive police discipline actions and complaints related to excessive force 2020AM116A
  • Opposes the use of chokeholds, carotid restraint, or any induced method of asphyxiation by law enforcement 2020AM116A
  • Opposes no-knock warrants in drug cases 2020AM116A
  • Supports the elimination of barriers to disclosure of complaints or disciplinary actions against law enforcement officers 2020AM116A
  • Supports that all law enforcement officers should prevent the use of excessive force or improper use of lethal force by another officer 2020AM116A
  • Opposes racial, ethnic, and religious profiling 1999AM10A2004AM112B , 2008AM104C, and 2012AM116    
  • Support that law enforcement training on sexual orientation and gender identity 2019AM115E
  • Supports comprehensive measures to ensure the fair treatment of youth 2003AM101B
  • 1999 Policy Opposing the Practice of Racial Profiling