DAY 15: Legal System Inequities

“The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated and the condemned.” –Bryan Stevenson, executive director, Equal Justice Initiative

The legal system is an institution that works to distribute justice while often perpetuating inequities within the communities it aims to protect. Over-policing, excessive use of force by law enforcement, lack of access to adequate legal aid and mass incarceration all disproportionately affect communities of color. 

America’s approach to punishment often lacks a public safety rationale, disproportionately affects minorities and inflicts overly harsh sentences. According to The Sentencing Project, one out of every three Black males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as compared to one out of every 17 white males. In addition, women are the fastest growing incarcerated population in the U.S. with an increase of 716% since 1980.

In North Carolina, the fairness of the justice system has been called in to question. According to the ACLU a Black person is over three times more likely to be arrested than a white person for marijuana possession in North Carolina, even though both groups use marijuana at the same rate. Use the interactive map to view the arrest rate for marijuana possession in Anson, Cabarrus, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Union counties. 

Despite making up close to 5% of the global population, the U.S. has nearly 25% of the world’s prison population. Since 1970, our incarcerated population has increased by 700% to 2.3 million people in jail and prison today.

The increased documentation of acts of police brutality shared through social media combined with the efforts of social justice organizers has drawn wide-spread public attention towards matters of racial injustice, something communities of color have recognized and reckoned with for generations. 

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Do one or more of the following…


Read “Fatal Force,” a Washington Post article with a database of every fatal shooting made by a police officer nationwide since 2015.


Watch this TED Talk by Baratunde Thurston, writer, activist and comedian who explores the phenomenon of white Americans calling the police on Black Americans who have committed the crime of “living while black.”

Watch The Origins of Law Enforcement in America. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Chenjerai Kumanyika explain how American policing grew out of efforts to control the labor of poor and enslaved people in the 19th century and beyond.


Listen to this podcast from Black Lives Matter addressing the killing of Breonna Taylor, the Say Her Name movement, and police violence against Black communities.


Concerned about reforming the criminal justice system here in North Carolina? If so, get involved with ACLU Smart Justice or Race Matters for Juvenile Justice


Take part in this week's service activity: Food Drive

Food insecurity in our region impacts a growing number of families due to the coronavirus pandemic. Our food distribution partners have asked for the following donations: peanut butter, dried beans, canned meat, canned low-sodium soup or stew, canned low-sodium vegetables and canned fruit. Learn more and give back.




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