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State racial equity task force releases report, showcases successful legislation

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Cars drive past the NC Department of Justice Building in Raleigh on October 5th, 2021.

The N.C. Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice released its 2023 Year-End Report, which summarized its work in the criminal justice realm throughout the year, on Jan. 23.

TREC was established by an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper in June 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. The task force consists of 25 members from across North Carolina, with N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls and the N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie Buffaloe Jr. serving as co-chairs.

N.C. Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), a member of TREC, said the task force consists of a wide range of people from all over North Carolina, including mental health advocates, law enforcement officers and legislators.

According to the report, TREC seeks to take a holistic look at the criminal justice system and create strategies and solutions to address racially disparate outcomes. 

In December 2020, the task force developed 125 recommendations to create a “more fair and equitable system.” The recommendations were organized into six categories, focusing on reimagining public safety, improving policing practices, enhancing accountability, strengthening the law enforcement profession, eliminating racial disparities in the courts and promoting racial equity post-conviction.

Following the task force's recommendations, several successful pieces of legislation have been passed, such as the Dignity for Women Who are Incarcerated Act. This law restricts police's restraining of pregnant women to protect their health and dignity while incarcerated. TREC also established the N.C. Juvenile Sentence Review Board within the Governor’s Clemency Office in 2021 and the N.C. Law Enforcement Accreditation program in 2023.

A major success of TREC in 2023 was the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention within the N.C. Department of Public Safety. According to a press release from Cooper, the OVP, under the leadership of Gerard Tate, will focus on decreasing violence and firearm misuse throughout the state.

Kerwin Pittman, a social justice activist who serves as a member of the OVP Advisory Board and TREC, said the establishment of the OVP is still underway, as the advisory board is working to develop and finalize its plans and strategies.

“It is a cross-collaboration to not only curb violence, but to look at violence from a public health lens and perspective, but also continue to root out inequities in all systems," Pittman said

In 2023, TREC also increased its support of local violence prevention organizations and promoted the passing of a state law meant to strengthen law enforcement recruitment, training and accountability practices.

Nisha Williams, the legal director at the N.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and a member of TREC, said the task force’s goal for 2024 is to continue to implement the recommendations released in the first task force report.

Williams said she really appreciates the ability the current task force has to research and uplift different initiatives across the state, including reentry councils and helping juveniles access parole.

“I’ve been honored to be a part of it and we've been working for almost four years now," Morey said. "We came up with 125 recommendations. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we have accomplished a lot and looking at the racial inequities in our criminal justice system and how to rectify that." 

@libbywakefield9

@DTHCityStatecity@dailytarheel.com

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