Washington Law Review


The American criminal justice system is currently suffering from a dramatic increase in mass incarceration and staggering rates of racial disproportionalities and disparities. Many facially neutral laws, policies, and practices within the criminal justice system have disproportionate impacts on minorities. Racial impact statements provide one potential method of addressing such disproportionalities. These proactive tools measure the projected impacts that new criminal justice laws and policies may have upon minorities, and provide this information to legislators before they decide whether to enact the law. Four states currently conduct racial impact statements, and other states are considering adopting their own versions. The triggering circumstances and methods of collecting racial impact data differ among states, resulting in a great variety of racial impact statements that are actually completed. This Comment reviews current racial impact statements and suggests three improvements for states that are considering adopting them. First, racial impact statements should attach automatically to legislation without the prompting of legislators’ votes. Second, states should consider developing more thorough data collection standards. Finally, more effective racial impact legislation should ensure that lawmakers address racial disproportionalities by requiring legislators to follow additional procedures when disproportionate racial impacts are projected.

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