'Diverse' criminal justice committee is still waiting for Latinos
On Thursday, City Council President Darrell Clarke named several new leaders to a special committee on criminal justice. The “diverse array of community and law enforcement” representatives did not include any Latinos, despite Latinos comprising 13 percent of the city’s population and having the second highest incarceration rate in the state. Clarke said, however, that Latinos will be added to the committee in coming weeks.
The committee’s three new co-chairs — 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., former Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, and Chief of Philadelphia Defenders Association Keir Bradford-Gray — have been charged with overhauling the city’s criminal justice system over the next four years.
Part of its task will be looking at and redressing:
the rapid growth of the adult corrections population
juvenile involvement in the criminal justice system
national policy changes that have proven effective in reducing costs, recidivism, and the overall prison population
the impact of current laws on Philadelphia communities and the justice-involved population
The committee's three co-chairs will be joined by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society Ann Schwartzman, and former Assistant District Attorney and prominent criminal litigator Tariq El-Shabazz, Esq.
Five of the committee’s six members are Black.
This is important to note, given the city and state’s prison demographics. Nearly 3,300 out of every 100,000 Black people in state were incarcerated in 2010.
But Latinos make up Pennsylvania’s second largest prison population. And at just six percent of the state’s population, they comprise 15 percent of its inmates, according to same 2010 census data. More than 2,000 out of every 100,000 Latinos were incarcerated in that year.
Clarke said by phone Thursday that people were recommended for the position by "word of mouth." At least four or five additional appointments will be made to the criminal justice committee in the coming weeks, and Clarke promised a Latino presence.
"We actually have a couple of members from the Latino community that we are considering to be a part of this," he said. "We're just waiting to get confirmation on availability, and to reach out to a couple more members from the Latino community to get some recommendations."
The Latino community has often been left out of larger discussion of law enforcement. Last year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came to Philadelphia for a roundtable discussion on police-community relations. Out of the 22-member panel, no Latino representatives were present. Mayor Michael Nutter even noted at the time that “the issues that affect the Latino community or Hispanic community are many of the same issues that certainly affect the African-American community.”
In terms of local law enforcement, Latinos are few and far between in the upper ranks for the Philadelphia Police Department, according to its most recent figures.
The Kenney administration has been invited to provide input on potential members for the criminal justice committee.