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LETTERS

2018 criminal justice law requires race, ethnicity data — agencies haven’t complied

Nicco Harding, 6, joined his family at City Hall during a march calling for justice for Eurie Stamps in Cambridge on Aug. 01. Stamps was accidentally shot and killed by police in 2011.
Nicco Harding, 6, joined his family at City Hall during a march calling for justice for Eurie Stamps in Cambridge on Aug. 01. Stamps was accidentally shot and killed by police in 2011.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Gal Tziperman Lotan’s article “Racial disparity clear in criminal system” (Page A1, Sept. 10) makes clear the racial disparities that were found in the report of the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School but also indicates how many district attorneys and courts do not record this crucial data.

The major criminal justice reform legislation passed in 2018 included provisions requiring criminal justice agencies to collect race and ethnicity data using common standards. The law also instructs agencies to link their databases, making it possible to track individuals as they move through the justice system, which would allow researchers more readily to observe where treatment differs by race or ethnicity. And the Legislature recently appropriated additional funds to help this happen.

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But in the two years since the law passed, criminal justice agencies have done little to comply. That is not what we need at this time of reckoning with the racial impact of our policies.

Now it’s time for the Baker administration, sheriffs, district attorneys, and the Trial Court to get to work. Witness how quickly the state produced detailed data across thousands of decentralized locations to track COVID-19 testing, hospitalizations, deaths, and the racial impact. It can be done.

If we care equally about rooting bias out of the justice system, we must pursue data and transparency with the same level of urgency. It’s a fitting way to continue the legacy of justice for which we are praising the late Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants.

Lewis Finfer

Dorchester

The writer is codirector of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network.