Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cultural Bias Among Judges, Juries, & Prosecutors (I)

How much cultural bias exists within the American justice system? Among judges?Among juries? And how about the prosecutors who decide what and when to charge persons of different ethic backgrounds with crimes? Let's look at judges today. We'll examine juries and prosecutors in later posts.

Despite our impression Lady Justice is blind, racial and ethic bias exists among judges. I'm sure few judges would admit to personal bias. However, everyone has it . . . even judges. Even though most judges pay close attention to the merits of a particular case, their different (cultural) life experiences lead to different interpretations of facts and circumstances they are called upon to adjudicate.

The solution? Possibly comprehensive diversity training for judges to address their "decision-maker" bias. Maybe the installation of procedures for identifying and sensitizing judges to their personal cultural prejudices. Perhaps judges should get out into their communities more often and develop sharper cultural sensitivity.

First, and foremost however, judges must realize they possess cultural bias. They must realize their personal prejudices effect how they interpret facts and circumstances . . . especially when the circumstances involve persons of different ethnicity from themselves. Lastly, they must learn how to fairly approach situations in court which encompass their prejudices and assumptions.

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