Facial recognition technology is flawed. Unfortunately, the technology tends to misidentify some people as others, which can mean the police arrest the wrong person. And, the technology has been shown to be racially biased.
As we discuss racial disparities in the criminal justice system, it's important to understand that the reason people of color are more deeply affected than their white peers is not because people of color are more prone to committing crimes. In fact, federal data indicates that people of all races tend to commit crimes at similar rates.
In the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, communities are reassessing the way they use police. Some, like Minneapolis, have made at least some changes to their police use of force policies.
Throughout the criminal justice system, people of color have traditionally been arrested more often, charged more harshly, given less access to bail, convicted at greater rates and sentenced to longer than their white peers. This has certainly carried through to drug enforcement.
According to a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision called Batson v. Kentucky, it violates the Equal Protection Clause for prosecutors to intentionally exclude potential jury members because of race. When the defense suspects the prosecutor is excluding jurors based on race, they can issue what is called a "Batson challenge."
It's a travesty when people are stuck behind bars for months or even years before they have even been convicted of a crime. However, there are sometimes good reasons to deny a person bail, such as when they are an obvious flight risk or a clear danger to the community.
The nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice recently released a report on the race gap in American prisons. The race gap is the degree to which minorities are incarcerated at a rate beyond their proportion in society. For example, even though there is no evidence that African-Americans are more prone to drug crimes than whites, in 2000 they were 15 times as likely to be convicted of state-level drug crimes.
According to the bipartisan nonprofit the Prison Policy Initiative, a third of all Wisconsin county jail inmates between 2009 and 2013 were locked up solely because they couldn't afford a low cash bail. In other words, they're behind bars before having been convicted of anything.
The Center for Court Innovation, a New York-based criminal justice reform agency, recently released a study on supposedly race-neutral risk assessment tools. These tools are widely used by courts to determine whether defendants should be granted bail or held in jail until trial.
The Montgomery County, Mississippi, prosecutor seems to have made it his career mission to convict Curtis Flowers for four 1986 murders in a small-town furniture store. Over the past two decades, he has tried Flowers for the murders six times.