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Report shows racial inequities in Washtenaw County's criminal justice system, but offers solutions

Washtenaw County Courthouse
Josh Hakala
89.1 WEMU
Washtenaw County Courthouse

Washtenaw County’s criminal legal system is full of racial disparities. That’s according to a report by the Washtenaw Equity Partnership. The report also has suggestions on how to fix it.

Among the many findings in the report, Black people, who make up just 12% of the county’s population, are almost 54% of those with charges. Black defendants were also found guilty at much higher rates than white individuals.

The report also made 65 recommendations to help address inequities within the criminal justice system, but to also prevent them from entering the system in the first place. This includes more resources for affordable housing, decriminalizing drugs for personal use and investing in social services.

Eli Savit is the county’s prosecuting attorney. His office participated in the survey.

“I view the report and its recommendations, which are very thorough, as a starting point for hopefully future action to make our justice system fairer and more equitable for everyone.”

The report also shows a high percentage of people involved in the criminal justice system were abused when they were younger. Savit says the priority needs to be addressing the root causes of these crimes.

“We’ve got a lot of traumatized children that ultimately end up acting out and coming into the juvenile system later on. The best thing we can do, I think, is to provide resources, to provide services, to address that trauma early on because then we won’t see them in the system to begin with.”

A bridge team has been created to determine the best course of action to address some of the report’s recommendations.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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