ADVERTISEMENT

Collecting race data on defendants nearly complete in ND

January 17, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A nearly yearlong effort at collecting race data on defendants to identify any potential bias in North Dakota’s justice system will come to an end soon.

The court rule that took effect in March 2021 requires that prosecutors filing criminal complaints include the race of adult defendants as perceived by law enforcement officers’ reports.

The judiciary’s Minority Justice Implementation Committee will look at the data this spring and identify any issues or disparities, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“The ultimate goal remains to be to identify any types of racial prejudice that we may have in our justice system in an effort to make sure that everybody’s entitled to equal justice under the law, and so make sure that everybody is obtaining equal justice and that there’s no disparities based on race or ethnicity,” said Northeast District Judge Anthony Swain Benson, who chairs the 15-member panel of judges, prosecutors and attorneys.

ADVERTISEMENT

OneFargo advocates for justice and equality. Its CEO and founder Wess Philome welcomes the race data collection and what it seeks to accomplish.

He doesn’t see an issue with collecting race based on perception, expecting few instances of the wrong race being perceived to a point it would negatively influence the data. One of the race categories is multiracial.

“Being able to provide this kind of information for people to take that kind of look, I truly believe that that’s the step our justice system needs to take to ensure that people of color are not unfairly being burdened and prosecuted and harmed by our justice system as it has done to people of color in the past,” Philome said.