The ACLU of Florida and its Greater Miami Chapter, in the “Unequal Treatment: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Miami-Dade County Criminal Justice” report, are to be commended for providing concrete, rather than anecdotal evidence that black defendants — Hispanic and non-Hispanic — face harsher penalties and longer sentences than their white Hispanic or non-Hispanic counterparts in the county’s criminal justice system.
For far too long, we have complained about the seeming disparity which has now been given credence as a result of this eye-opening report. These findings mirror many of the complaints our board has heard throughout the years and speak volumes to the disparities faced daily by the county’s black residents.
The question now is — what are we going to do about it?
The Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board will be working together with the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office on programs designed to address these disparities, and with Miami-Dade County law enforcement agencies and the Department of Juvenile Justice on measures that should have a positive impact on these glaring inconsistencies.
Much like our previous involvement in advocating for civil citations for juveniles, we intend to advocate for fair treatment for the many black defendants who are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to their over-representation through longer periods of pretrial detention, conviction and incarceration.
We can no longer just receive reports such as these and remain on the sidelines. Rather, we intend to face these disparities head on, in a proactive, rather than a reactive, manner.
Stephen Hunter Johnson,
Miami-Dade County Black Affairs Advisory Board