Bias has no place in NC's criminal justice system


Chief Justice Cheri Beasley plants a seed on her way out:

Outgoing North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley on Wednesday detailed a commission that will recommend how to discourage and ultimately eliminate unfair treatment in the judicial system based on race, gender or other factors.

The text of the order acknowledged inequalities in the judicial system “that stem from a history of deeply rooted discriminatory policies and practices and the ongoing role of implicit and explicit racial, gender, and other biases.” Beasley, the first Black woman serving as chief justice, also delivered an address following the death of George Floyd that acknowledged enduring racial inequalities in North Carolina’s system.

There are many issues that need to be dealt with, and wealth disparities are at the top of that list:

While there is no time limit on the commission, the order directs the panel to work in 2021 and 2022 toward several recommendations. They include ways to reduce situations where low-income defendants effectively suffer more punishment because they can’t pay fines and other fees, and how to ensure no one is prevented from jury service due to explicit or implicit bias. The commission is also supposed to help create educational programs for court officials and private lawyers on systemic racism and bias.

As I've mentioned before, the inequities begin shortly after being arrested. If your bond is set for $5,000, you have to pay the bail bondsman $500 cash before you can be released. And that money takes a one-way trip, you will not get it back. And with COVID slowing down the courts, you could end up being incarcerated for months just because you can't afford to pay the piper. And it's not just the defendant who suffers; their family suffers as well. We're not just talking about lost income, the children of single-parent defendants are literally orphaned by the system.