February 27, 2009

CARDIN, SPECTER INTRODUCE BILL TO RETURN EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW TO U.S. JUSTICE SYSTEM

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, today introduced the Justice Integrity Act of 2009 , which is designed to help restore public confidence and eliminate any bias in our criminal justice system. In introducing the bill, Senator Cardin thanked Vice President Joe Biden, a former member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who had introduced a similar measure in the last Congress.  

 

"We are at a crossroads today where we can either attack injustice or continue to turn our heads away from the problems that have infected our system," said Senator Cardin.   "This bill will not only help restore the public's trust in our justice system but also restore integrity in our justice system. Any form of bias in our criminal justice system erodes the core principles in our Constitution specifically that "all men are created equal" under the law and that our justice system is not only fair but just."

 

"This legislation will provide us with necessary data that will help us as we try to address racial disparities and eliminate any bias in law enforcement and our justice system," Senator Specter said.  "I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate on this important legislation."

 

A 2007 study released by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that while Black, Hispanic and White drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested. In addition, African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for a drug offense than white Americans and are nearly ten times as likely to enter prison for drug offenses. "These types of disparities and the perception of bias are unacceptable and we should take bold steps to correct these injustices," said Senator Cardin. "We must follow President Obama's call to "insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life."

 

The Justice Integrity Act will create 10 pilot programs across the country that will help develop a working plan to ensure that law enforcement priorities and initiatives - including charging and plea decisions, as well as sentencing recommendations - are not influenced by racial or ethnic bias but instead apply the law in a just and fair manner to all individuals. These initial pilot programs will be set up at the discretion of the Attorney General in 10 different U.S. attorney offices. Each U.S. attorney will create an advisory group including all major stakeholders in the justice system. Each of the individuals will gather information and examine data which will lead to a report on their findings and recommendations to the district on how to reduce unjustified racial and ethnic disparities.