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Study: Race Affects Justice

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Civil rights advocates said Thursday they hope a new report indicating massive racial inequities in the justice system will ignite a national dialogue and push lawmakers to action.

``This isn't just about a group of civil rights folks crying about injustice. This is about saving our justice system,'' said Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza.

The report, ``Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System,'' was released by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a Washington D.C.-based civil rights coalition celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Among the findings in the 90-page report:
—Nearly 74 percent of all those deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service are of Mexican origin even though Mexicans are less than half of all undocumented people in the United States, according to Immigration and Naturalization Service figures.

—Hispanics are likely to be released in only 26 percent of their cases while non-Hispanics are likely to be released before trial in 66 percent of their cases, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

—Blacks who killed whites were sentenced to death 22 times more frequently than blacks who killed blacks and seven times more frequently than whites who killed blacks, according to crime researcher David C. Baldus.

The findings buttress the contentions voiced in a recent national report that the juvenile justice system is home to wide racial disparities.

Last week, a national report from a leading criminal justice think tank, the Youth Law Center, pointed to a ``cumulative disadvantage'' for black and Latino youth in the nation's criminal justice system.

Chief among the findings was that a black youth is six times more likely to be locked up than a white youth, even when charged with a similar crime and when neither has a prior record.

While the substantive points in the ``Justice on Trial'' report have been revealed in earlier studies, activists have addressed them in a ``piecemeal fashion,'' said Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative office.

The issues are likely to get more attention now that these findings have all been pulled together in one report, Murphy said.

Murphy said she was encouraged that during the presidential debates of both major political parties, candidates had to field questions on racial profiling by police, the practice of stopping and questioning disproportionately high numbers of minorities.

``In the past, all they would say is that we're going to get tough on crime,'' Murphy said. ``Now to begin to court key constituencies, they realize they have to make sure police are fair and equitable. That represents some progress.''

Among recommendations in the report are increased gathering of crime statistics by police, greater diversification in law enforcement, suspension of the death penalty and ending efforts to put juveniles in the adult justice system.

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