In 2010 the American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section launched the Racial Justice Improvement Project (RJIP), with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The RJIP is designed to identify and reform policies and practices that produce racial disparities in local criminal justice systems across the country.
While minorities have a higher rate of criminal activity in some crime categories, this does not explain why minority defendants who commit the same crimes, and have the same criminal history as white defendants, are more likely to be denied pretrial release, and are sentenced more harshly. Likewise, while there are some bad actors in the criminal justice system whose professional judgment is affected by racial bias, “race neutral” laws that are fairly and evenly enforced across all racial groups, can still have a disparate impact on minority defendants.
Though RJIP began as a two-year, federally funded, initiative designed to identify and reform policies and practices that produce racial disparities in local criminal justice systems across the country, in 2013, subsequent to successfully administering policy reform in four jurisdictions, RJIP was awarded another grant from BJA to continue implementing policy reform in four additional new sites. In addition, RJIP received additional funding from the Public Welfare Foundation to sustain and expand the original reform efforts and evaluate their effectiveness.
The Advisory Board chose all of the project's reform sites through an evaluative process, overlooked by an independent evaluator. The four additional jurisdictions that began participating in the project in June 2013 can be viewed here.