Racial disparities abound in Pittsburgh criminal justice system: report
© WikiMedia (Michael Coghlan)
Racial disparities abound in Pittsburgh criminal justice system: report

The Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) published a report Tuesday detailing continued racial disparities in the Allegheny County Prison System in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

ALC Court Watch, implemented this summer, aimed to keep courts accountable with “observation, data collection and public reporting.” They found that Black residents are more likely to be arrested, charged and have monetary bail imposed. The US and the Philippines are the only countries in the world to have a commercial bail industry, where defendants have to pay upfront to be free of incarceration before trial.

This system means Black residents are more likely to be detained for longer periods. ALC found:

The racially disproportionate imposition of money bail is a contributing factor to this gross disparity. Despite being less than 7% of the county population, Black men between May 11 and June 8 made up 32% of misdemeanor arrests and 44% of misdemeanor defendants. Additionally, Black men alone were subjected to 43% of the total dollar value of unsecured monetary bail impositions for misdemeanors and 39% of the total dollar value of secured monetary bail impositions.

ALC Court Watch called the disparity a violation of human rights, as human rights law establishes that “all people have the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention.”

To solve some of the city’s ongoing racial disparities within the justice system,  ALC Court Watch offered three recommendations. First, they recommend that the city defund the police, as there has been no meaningful evidence that they are promoting public safety. Instead, they recommend that the city of Pittsburgh invest in education, housing, health care and employment initiatives.

Further, ALC Court Watch suggests that bail-as-ransom must end, as it only serves the purpose of transferring money from communities targeted by police to the pockets of the court system. Finally, the ALC urges the court system to open remote access to proceedings.