Many people agree that our criminal justice system relies too much on pretrial detention -- keeping people in jail because they are assigned bail they can't afford. Ideally, we could tell who is a flight risk and who is a danger to the community in some logical way and release those who are not.
When someone is charged with a crime, bail is determined in part based on a risk assessment. The court decides whether the defendant, if allowed to go free, will fail to appear for trial or will commit another crime.
"Driving while black" isn't a real crime, but it might as well be. African-Americans and people of color persistently report being stopped, searched, cited and even arrested for traffic offenses in situations where white people probably wouldn't be. Yet people of color don't break the law at a higher rate than whites. If anything, a recent study found, whites are more likely to do so.
Marijuana arrests make up over half of all drug arrests in the U.S., and approximately 88 percent of marijuana arrests are for possession. Enforcing our state and federal marijuana laws costs the U.S. about $3.6 billion every year, yet doing so has had virtually no measurable impact on the availability of marijuana. It also ensnares hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system.
When prosecutors and defense attorneys choose jurors from a pool, they are allowed to reject some jurors, either for good cause or in what is called a "preemptory challenge." Jurors can be removed for cause, for example, when they are unqualified to serve, have a conflict of interest, or admit that they cannot put aside their biases. Each side gets a limited number of preemptory challenges that can be used to strike jurors without a specific cause.
When an African-American woman from Waterloo named Scottize Brown was pulled over in 2015, it had little to do with her behavior. The officer who pulled her over had run the license plate on the vehicle she was driving and learned that the owner had alleged gang affiliations.
The dashcam video of a Des Moines police stop involving two African-American men, Montray Little and Jared Clinton, has been viewed over 9 million times.