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Miami-Dade criminal justice system is harsher on people of color, ACLU says

Local leaders meet with researchers to try to find solutions

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MIAMI – A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that race and ethnicity shape a person's involvement and outcomes in the criminal justice system. 

Now, local leaders are meeting with researchers to try and find solutions. 

Members of the ACLU met Thursday with the Miami-Dade County public defender and representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  

ACLU members said the report confirms what some believed was already going on in the criminal justice system -- that, in Miami-Dade County, the system is harsher on people of color.

The ACLU and researchers from the University of Miami announced their findings through a report that has been three years in the making.  

They said the report found race and ethnicity significantly affected the likelihood that a person will face harsher outcomes in the criminal justice system in Miami-Dade County.  

The report analyzed data on arrest, bond, pretrial detention, charging and sentencing. It found that black defendants -- regardless of ethnicity -- are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice system in the county when compared to their share of the county’s population.  

"As teams, we plan to have meetings at every level of the county," said Jeanne Baker, chair of the ACLU of Florida, Greater Miami Police Practices. "Miami-Dade County is very big, but every community has very different problems."

Baker said those meetings, like the report, may take years to complete, but their ultimate goal is to find solutions to the issues discovered.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle responded to the report Thursday by releasing the following statement: "My office and its leadership have always strived for fairness and justice as a priority.

"We do so through structured supervision, enhanced training on implicit bias and the ethical obligations of prosecutors, as well as engendering a culture of diversity in ensuring fairness.

"We have not yet had a full opportunity to examine the findings released by the ACLU today. However, I take my responsibility as your State Attorney to pursue unbiased justice for all in our community very seriously.

"Once we study the results, we will work with our partners at the ACLU and other stakeholders such as our judiciary to ensure that we continue to engender the appropriate culture and take the appropriate steps to correct any implicit bias that may be affecting our practice."


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