Past Meetup

Gene Nichol Presents "Reducing our Prison Population and Sentencing Bias"

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Dr. Gene Nichol, UNC Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, will give a talk titled Reducing our Prison Population and Sentencing Bias.

In a recent article The News & Observer "Filling the Cells,"published 12/2012), Professor Nichol noted that the results from expansive incarceration create permanent barriers to employment, housing, public benefits, and education. These deprivations spill over to families, neighborhoods and towns and drives up child poverty in 100 North Carolina counties.

Why are these conditions allowed to exist in a country that is committed to equal justice for all?

The difficulty is our inability to successfully challenge systemic injustices in American courts. Individual claims sometimes prevail, but changing hardcore institutional structures and attitudes is exceedingly difficult. Evidence of built-in, long-term bias must be used to prove broad-ranging bias and its distorting impact. This requires objective, valid statistical measurements compiled over several years. Individuals fare slightly better but are faced with an equivalent problem. Much of the evidence they garner to substantiate racial bias is at best hearsay and inadmissible in court.

In recent debates over North Carolina's path-breaking Racial Justice Act, it is evident that even though both prosecutors and juries manipulate results to accommodate racial predisposition, this once again is deemed beside the point. ". . . sometimes you have to look at the forest to actually grasp the nature of the trees. Otherwise, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that we know our vaunted criminal justice system is radicalized, we just don't care."

This talk is part of EHST's current ongoing program theme of criminal justice reform and the New Jim Crow.

For more information on EHST visit our website at /

Reaching for a more ethical life

Attendees (6)