Racial bias to be discussed when to comes to kids and court

Courts look to address alleged bias

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Charlotte-Mecklenburg community has seen a lot of discussions the past two years about racial tension and bias, usually focused on the relationship between police and the neighbors they serve.

Racial bias is also being addressed across other systems, too, including the courts.

Later this month the group called Race Matters for Juvenile Justice will present a conference with community stakeholders aimed at identifying individual and institutional bias, and eliminating it.

Dr. Susan McCarter, an associate professor of social work at UNC-Charlotte, is one of the speakers.

"Long-term, the goal is to not be able to predict the outcomes for kids in any of the systems; in healthcare, in child welfare, in the courts, in education -- based on race and ethnicity," she said.

McCarter says she worked on one study out of state which showed youth in the court system where more likely to be incarcerated based on race, not just the actual crime committed or the young person's prior record.

"Race was number one, and the real surprising thing was that education was number two," said Dr. McCarter, talking about the factors of youth incarceration.

Black males are also more likely to face out of school suspension within Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools compared to their white counterparts, based on research reported to the school board in 2014.

The RMJJ conference will bring together police, teachers, court employees and social workers to examine how to reduce bias and share research.

Shaun Corbett, who has helped organize the popular "Cops and Barbers" discussions with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to address concerns, says the conference is a great effort.

"At the end of the day, the biases are going to be the biases. That's the system," said Corbett. "I say as a community, let's go back into the community to invest in these kids and give them options," he said.

Corbett says it's important for all stakeholders in the system to know the data and share the numbers when it comes to children in the courts, but he also says it's important to keep the kids out of the system first.

"Let's get these kids before we even get into trouble," he said.

For more information on the RMJJ conference, click here.

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