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Racial bias in our laws lessen, still not perfect though

There were a lot of lessons to be learned from the incident in Ferguson. For many across Missouri, including here in Columbia, one of the main lessons learned was that racial bias is still prevalent in our society, perhaps even among law enforcement officers who are tasked with upholding a law that is supposed to be color blind.

For those who regularly visit our blog, you know that this isn't the first time we have talked about the possible racial bias that exists within our criminal justice system. Back in August last year we spoke about the apparent racial bias found in federal sentencing laws, particularly for non-violent drug crimes.

As you may remember from our post, it was believed that federal drug laws for possession of crack cocaine targeted blacks who were more likely to possess the substance. Sentencing was harsh too, even for non-violent offenders, which has created predominantly black prison populations in many states across the nation.

The disparity between incarceration rates for blacks versus whites prompted action from Attorney General Eric Holder whose Smart on Crime initiative reduced the federal sentencing guidelines for non-violent drug offenses. Though this has resulted in fewer prosecutions for drug crimes and fewer requests for mandatory minimum sentences by prosecutors, many people believe that more could be done to not only reduce prison populations but to help eliminate racial bias altogether.

According to a recent Washington Post piece, now could be the time for change. As the article points out, addressing criminal justice reform was part of the president's State of the Union address at the beginning of this year. Many politicians, even some who had shown little or no support for reform, are now joining the efforts for change as well. But whether this momentum sparks any changes here in Missouri remains to be seen.

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