CWU News

CWU to Have a Voice on Race and Washington's Criminal Justice System Task Force

The Washington Supreme Court is calling on the state’s judiciary and legal communities to address continuing injustice and racism in the state’s criminal and juvenile justice systems. Central Washington University law and justice professor Chuck Reasons will serve on the newly formed Race and Washington’s Criminal Justice System Task Force.

Reasons, who served on the previous task force on Race and the Criminal Justice System 10 years ago, will again offer his expertise to the panel.

“Those of us who were part of the first task force have been asked to rejoin along with an attempt to get others to participate,” Reasons said.

The earlier task force included academics, community leaders, defense and prosecuting attorneys, law enforcement, and judicial officers. The panel examined race disproportionality in the criminal justice system and presented the 2012 Report on Juvenile Justice and Racial Disproportionality.

The conclusion: overrepresentation of people of color behind bars is largely due to systemic discrimination. The committee found that race-neutral policies have a disparate impact on people of color, there is evidence of ethnic bias in decision-making, and prejudice does not advance legitimate public safety objectives while, at the same time, producing inequalities and undermining the public’s confidence in the system.

“Since the task force did its work back in 2010 and ’11, there’s been more research and more issues,” Reasons points out. “We will be updating sections of the previous report with new research and findings. The committee will have working groups on oversight, community engagement, research, recommendations, and education.”

The reestablished task force is being formed and chaired by the deans of Washington’s three law schools at Gonzaga University, Seattle University, and the University of Washington. CWU’s Department of Law and Justice is also considered to be a valuable participant.

The goal is to produce another report for review by the legislative and judicial branches of state government. The report, which will include updates to past research and additional research in areas such as police accountability, should be complete by next summer. The first task force meeting will be held later this month.