- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - If you’re arrested in Rhode Island, chances are you’ll be locked up by a white officer, stand before a white judge and have the case argued by white lawyers.

The state’s criminal justice system remains largely white, even as children of color comprise nearly 40 percent of Rhode Island’s youth, according to an investigation by The Providence Journal (https://bit.ly/1Our9EH).

The newspaper found that there are just three judges of color in the state, and the people prosecuting crimes are also overwhelmingly white. Just four lawyers out of 99 are of color in the Attorney General’s Office and three out of 22 in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The state public defender’s office is also largely white, and there is only one lawyer of color in the federal office.

Minorities are missing from leadership positions in police departments throughout the state, and in 16 communities, there are no Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians on the police force, according to the report.

Providence NAACP President James Vincent says the numbers are “disgraceful” - specifically in the judiciary.

“When you have people facing people who don’t look like them, it’s hard to have faith,” Vincent said. “It’s affecting the confidence if people feel like they’re not getting a fair shake.”

Police departments across the state say recruitment is a challenge, but they’re embarking on campaigns to increase the diversity of their applicant pools.

In Providence, Sgt. James Barros said they’re making progress to make the department more diverse. This year, nearly 40 percent of the applicants were of color, which is a 3 percent increase from the year before.


Information from: The Providence Journal, https://www.providencejournal.com

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