“Attitudes of suspicion and contempt stemming from slavery, the systemic establishment of the black man as an inferior person, still have consequences on our society today,” says Gary Walker, President of IRP Solutions Corporation. Walker is one of the IRP6, a group of six Colorado businessmen–five African-American and one white–who were convicted of mail and wire fraud and have been incarcerated in a federal prison since the summer of 2012. The men and their supporters, including the criminal justice reform organization A Just Cause, claim they were wrongfully convicted as a result of an overzealous, racially-motivated prosecution. “There is a sentencing disparity that exists between blacks and whites convicted of the same crime, and there is little or no presumption of innocence until proven guilty for blacks,” Walker added.
Holder’s remarks to the ABA came on the same day that a federal judge found the New York Police Department’s Stop-and-Frisk policy unconstitutional. Between 2004 and 2012, 83 percent of the 4.43 million stops were of blacks and Latinos, who barely make up more than 50 percent of the city’s population. Police conducted frisks for weapons and drugs on these individuals without any legal justification for stopping them in the first place. Moreover, while young men of color were disproportionately stopped and subjected to force by police, criminal activity was found in rare cases, and whites were more likely to possess weapons or contraband.
According to the ruling, the NYPD “policy of indirect racial profiling” violated the rights of thousands of black and Latino men— a disregard for the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection.
“The bottom line is that, while the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. To be effective, federal efforts must also focus on prevention and reentry. We must never stop being tough on crime. But we must also be smart and efficient when battling crime and the conditions and the individual choices that breed it.”