There is a lack of representation of Black, indigenous and people of color in court rooms, which results in negative outcomes for these populations. Studies have shown that 95% of prosecutors in Florida and around the country are white.
Studies of racial demographics of the nation’s state prosecutors and judges exposed wide disparities between communities and those who decide their fate in criminal matters. In America, 39% of the population are people of color, and slightly more than 13% are Black, yet whites comprise almost all of elected prosecutors. People of color made up less than 2 out of 10 state trial judges in 2016.
Judges and prosecutors are tasked with ensuring that trials are fair and the rights of defendants are protected. Judges are supposed to act as safeguards against the wrongdoings of prosecutors and police. However, if they do not represent the communities they serve, it undermines the legitimacy of the courts, according to a Vanderbilt University Law School Professor.
Since the 1920s, academics have been aware that a judge’s educational environment and upbringing will help to determine the judge’s tendency to be either lenient or strict. Therefore, the lack of Black representation on the bench has real-world impact on the outcomes for people of color in the court system. Because they come from different backgrounds than many of their constituents, prosecutors and judges may treat people of color differently than people of similar backgrounds to their own.
The justice system has clear issues in terms of racial equality, and people of color have specific issues with the justice system that are complex and difficult to navigate. An attorney with a background in criminal defense may help individuals facing criminal charges understand the confusing, complex and inherently biased justice system.