Florida residents have likely seen news about the nationwide protests over police treatment of Black people and other people of color. Some activists point out that these protests demonstrate the disparity between the race of individuals running the criminal justice system and those who make up the population, which goes further than just the police.
Black Americans and other people of color are underrepresented among criminal prosecutors and judges, who often sentence criminal defendants based on their discretion. This practice may be a result of the difficulties some minorities face in the education system that make it harder for them to get into law school or even to stay in law school after they do manage to get their foot in the door. According to an American Bar Association survey, only 5% of attorneys are Black.
Similarly, in 2015, only 5% of elected prosecutors were non-white, even though Black people make up approximately 13% of this country’s population and people of color make up approximately 39%. In 16 states, fewer than one judge out of every 10 was a person of color, and fewer than 2 out of 10 were people of color across the country. This could help explain why researchers have found a discrepancy between how Black defendants are sentenced as compared to white defendants.
Many believe that having more people of color on the bench could lead to more fair outcomes. One researcher and author noted that there is evidence that female and Black judges have a “subtle but meaningful” impact on how criminal cases proceed.
Every person is entitled to defense when accused of a crime. Individuals who have been arrested may want to consider consulting with a criminal defense attorney about their legal options.