Maine courts will take steps to prevent racism and other discrimination from affecting the state’s justice process, the state’s top judge announced this week in response to the killing of George Floyd and other African-Americans at the hands of police officers.
The court system said in an announcement dated Monday that it will train employees “to better understand, identify, and address racism in all its forms and its insidious effects upon attitudes and behavior.” The courts have also “begun to reach out to people and resources” that can help the state’s justice system with identifying, understanding and addressing racism, Andrew Mead, acting chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, wrote in the announcement.
“The horrific deaths of African-Americans in Minneapolis, Louisville, and Atlanta in recent weeks have driven home a stark and heartbreaking reminder to all Americans that racism continues to be a pervasive blight upon our constitutional republic and the world at large,” he wrote.
Mead was not specific about the form the training would take but said it would include judicial officers, many of whom are retired police officers and Maine wardens, and other court staff. The announcement didn’t elaborate on other measures court officials have in mind, either.
“The courts have a direct and fundamental responsibility to dispense
justice without any hint or even appearance of racism or other bias in all of their insidious forms,” he said. “Freedom from disparate treatment based upon race is not only a constitutional right — it is a basic human right.”
Mead also said the courts “will work toward integrating into our systems additional measures to prevent racism and other forms of discrimination from affecting the justice process, and will seek the advice and support of those in the wider community to help us with that continuing and redoubled effort.”
Maine does not report arrests by race in its annual Uniform Crime Report, compiled by the Maine State Police. The Maine Department of Corrections, however, has begun publishing incarceration statistics that show black residents are overrepresented in the state’s prisons.
In the department’s 2018 report, 12 percent of the 2,208 men and 3 percent of the 236 women imprisoned in its facilities were black.
Blacks make up an estimated 1.6 percent of Maine’s population, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated last year.