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Much to be done

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The day after Barack Obama was elected, John Wesley Hall of Little Rock, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, posted a message to members on the NACDL website:

“No matter whom you voted for yesterday, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States fulfills Dr. King's dream that his children, all our children, live in a nation where people can expect to be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

“But there is much work to be done by the new president and the next Congress. The prison camps at Guantanamo Naval Base have become a symbol of shame around the world. President-Elect Obama should close them within hours of taking the oath of office. Those believed responsible for crimes against Americans should be charged and prosecuted in the federal criminal justice system or in traditional military courts under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“The time has come to address the racism that infects the U.S. criminal justice system. Congress should eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, a reform supported by President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Joe Biden. To further wipe out racial and ethnic bias within the federal criminal justice system, Congress should pass the Justice Integrity Act, introduced this year by Vice President-Elect Joe Biden, which would mandate the creation of pilot programs in 10 federal districts to evaluate racial and ethnic fairness in the U.S. attorneys' offices.

“These two measures are just the beginning. We will not have a truly color-blind system of justice until our policymakers address the over-incarceration of minorities, racially disproportionate application of the death penalty, racial and ethnic profiling, and the underfunding of indigent defense.

“The criminalization of undocumented workers should cease. Mass arrest is not immigration reform; it is an admission that our immigration policies have failed. …”

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