SJI supports research and data-driven approaches that examine statutory requirements, policies, and practices that result in disparities for justice-involved persons. These disparities can be because of inequities in socio-economic, racial, ethnic, gender, age, health, or other factors. In addition to identifying disparities, SJI promotes systemic approaches to reducing disparities.
Diversity and Inclusion Data Collection Framework
The New Hampshire Judicial Branch (NHJB) is developing a data collection and reporting framework that enables the Branch to analyze fairness in the court system. The work will enable the NHJB and Administrative Office of the Courts to conduct evidence based, data-driven decision making, work toward cross-sector collaboration, and make systemic changes to policy and procedures. The project also includes the development of a compelling “Diversity and Inclusion data story” to leverage for additional state and federal funding.
An Evaluation of the Elimination of Peremptory Challenges in Arizona
To prevent discrimination in jury selection, the Arizona Supreme Court eliminated peremptory challenges. The National Center for State Court’s (NCSC) Center for Jury Studies will evaluate the impact of the rule change on the dynamics of jury selection, the demographic composition of juries, the efficiency of jury operations, the dynamics of jury deliberations, and public trust and confidence in the fairness of jury trials. The findings will inform judicial policymakers in Arizona and states considering similar changes.
Bias Education and Training Development
The New York State Unified Court System (UCS) will develop and implement a mandatory, comprehensive, and sustainable racial bias, cultural awareness, and procedural justice education and training program for all UCS judges and court staff with special emphasis on public safety officers. UCS will also evaluate the impact of this training on staff and court culture.
Leveling the Scales of Justice: Developing an Action Blueprint to Further Racial Justice in and by the Courts
Recent events in the U.S. have highlighted the disproportionate impact that justice system policies and practices can have on communities of color. In response to the call for court leaders to act, a joint Conference of Chief Justices–Conference of State Court Administrators (CCJ-COSCA) resolution entitled, “In Support of Racial Equality and Justice for All” was adopted that encompasses a commitment of the national state court leadership “to intensify efforts to combat racial prejudice within the justice system, both explicit and implicit … so that justice is not only fair to all but also recognized by all to be fair.”
Following this resolution in late 2020, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) created the “Blueprint for Racial Justice.” The Blueprint focuses on creating a set of practical, evidence-based tools and recommended processes as an Action Blueprint for Racial Justice. The Blueprint will provide comprehensive, data-informed guidance to state courts to find solutions to racial justice issues impacting the state courts. The products of the Blueprint work will be guidance, technical assistance, and actionable deliverables that state courts can immediately implement to address racial justice concerns within their operations. Key to Blueprint efforts will be seeking the input of state, county, and local courts; involving and listening to the voices of Black Americans, Indigenous peoples, and other people of color; and coordinating efforts with internal and external stakeholders engaged in similar work.
Leveling the Scales of Justice: Building an Organizational Assessment
The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is developing a research-informed, data-driven organizational assessment tool for courts pursuing goals of equal justice, diversity, and inclusion. Informed by the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) and working with an Advisory Group comprised of volunteers from a Working Group of NCSC’s Blueprint for Racial Justice Initiative, NCSC Researchers will review existing resources, identify court priorities, and resource gaps, and develop, pilot, and disseminate a comprehensive assessment to address court needs.
Judicial Education Series: Historical Roots of Racism & its Contribution to our Current Juvenile Legal System
The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is working with the NJDC Judicial Council to develop a program that explores the legacy of racism in America and how it has shaped the juvenile legal system. NJDC will also work in collaboration with the National Council of Juvenile Court and Family Judges (NCJFCJ) to implement this project. The audience for this program is a select number of juvenile court judges who apply to participate and will comprise the Judicial Racial Justice Network (JRJN). JRJN members will participate in virtual programming led by peer judges and experts to develop strategies that counteract systemic biases in their courtrooms and communities. At the conclusion of the project, JRJN members will serve as ambassadors for racial justice in the juvenile legal system community to invoke sustainable positive change that will benefit the lives of Black children.
Master Jury Lists
The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is supporting court policymakers in Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee and the Superior Court in Maricopa County, Arizona as they identify effective procedures for creating and maintaining master jury lists. With guidance from an advisory committee comprised of representatives from the Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators Court Management Committee and the participating jurisdictions, the NCSC will assess the inclusiveness, representativeness, and record accuracy of current and potential juror source lists; the impact of matching criteria used to identify and remove duplicate records; and the impact of US Postal service National Change of Address (NCOA) updates and other techniques to maintain the accuracy of master jury list records. Based on research findings from the project, the NCSC will develop and publish updated best practice guidelines applicable for all state courts.
National Justice and Fairness Training Program and Strategies to Combat Racial Inequality in the Courts and Criminal Justice System
The National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) is developing a national training program for judges at the local, state, and federal level who engage in sentencings and other public encounters with a focus on justice and fairness. The curriculum will be delivered as a pilot to 100 judicial officers at the outset. In addition, at the NAWJ National Conference, an additional 100 judges will be trained through the development and delivery of a train the trainer curriculum. Ten judges will be selected as district instructors who will present localized training. NAWJ’s focus of this project is the racial inequalities that are seen in the criminal justice system especially for women and people of color.
Additionally, NAWJ is developing strategies to implement the curriculum, materials, and train the trainer process at a regional and national level. The goal is to aid and educate the judges about the built-in prejudices that directly influence sentencing in their communities.
High Volume Calendars and Racial/Ethnic Data in D.C. Courts
The District of Columbia Courts is conducting an in-depth review of the Courts’ high-volume landlord and tenant, debt collection and mortgage foreclosure calendars. The National Center for State Courts will conduct an independent assessment of these calendars, seeking input from internal and external stakeholders. The goals of the project are to enhance access and fairness, enhance efficiency, and to eliminate any practices which may contribute to racial inequity. The NCSC will review existing rules, business practices and services available to litigants on these calendars and conduct surveys and focus groups of litigants, members of the public, bar members, institutional partners and other external stakeholders, as well as judges and court staff, to gather information. The study will include a demographic analysis using litigant addresses and Census block-level data to develop a profile of the litigants who have cases on these calendars.
Courts in the ERA of #WeToo
In January 2018, the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) adopted Resolution 2 encouraging all states to develop practices and policies, provide training to judges and court staff, and establish procedures to recognize and respond to harassment and harassment complaints. The National Association for Court Management (NACM), the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) are establishing a clearinghouse of materials and resources, and developing education and training tools for judges and court administrators that focus on workplace harassment and bias. The partners have engaged the Futures Without Violence, a national technical assistance and education provider that has developed groundbreaking programs, policies, and campaigns that empower individuals and organizations working to end violence against women and children around the world, to develop those resources.