TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Racial inequality in America has been front and center in 2020. It got widespread attention in the days and weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren with the help of other local leaders put forth five action steps to combat racial injustice in the criminal justice system.
“The ugly but undeniable truth is our justice system does not work fairly for every person every time,” Warren told 8 On Your Side.
It is a truth that Yvette Lewis, President of the NAACP Hillsborough County Branch, knows well.
“Honestly, it goes back to race and the systemic racism that continues to plague or affect, have a strong affect, on the African American community,” Lewis said.
Warren’s office released a synopsis of the five action steps:
Racial Justice Work Group: Creating a focused working group with representatives from the community and State Attorney’s Office to identify important community issues related to racial injustice and develop consistent responses to address them.
Use of Deadly Force Review: Expanding outreach efforts to reach more groups and provide more clarity each time the State Attorney’s Office reviews whether criminal charges are appropriate in a case involving the use of deadly force by police or civilians.
Community Engagement: Growing community connections by encouraging staff engagement and considering community involvement in staff evaluations and promotions. Warren will continue monthly and quarterly meetings with community groups, including the Hillsborough Branch of the NAACP, faith leaders, and the public at large.
Minority Prosecutor Recruitment: Taking additional steps to recruit a staff that reflects our community by formalizing our ongoing support of the National Black Prosecutors Association and establishing partnerships with law schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Better Sentencing Analysis: Investing in tools and research to evaluate sentences and plea arrangements, aiming to ensure that people with similar crimes and similar criminal histories are not receiving vastly different consequences.
“I would say community engagement definitely needs to be tackled first,” Lewis said. “The State Attorney’s Office has always been isolated from the community, has not been involved in the community. They don’t know us. We don’t know them, so it’s a scary feeling,” she explained.
Warren said he hopes the action steps bring communication and change.
“This is another way we can bring the community to the table and find a solution to the problems we know that exist,” the state attorney said.
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