Fighting unconscious bias and discrimination of Roma people in the criminal justice system

Friday - 2 August 2019
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APADOR-CH is currently working on a two years project (2018-2020) with partners from 3 EU Member States (the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and Rights International Spain), under direct coordination of Fair Trials, to improve the awareness and understanding of the ways in which key decisions made by criminal justice professionals might result in discriminatory outcomes for Roma suspects and defendants.

The project focuses on how negative stereotypes and societal attitudes might affect how lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and the police make decisions regarding Roma suspects and defendants. This EU-funded project will also identify anti-discrimination champions within criminal justice systems across the EU, and will develop strategies for improving the fairness of decision-making by criminal justice professionals.

Context

There is considerable evidence that Roma people are more likely to be drawn into the criminal justice systems of EU Member States than other ethnic groups. Arrest, detention and conviction undermine and prevent integration of ethnic minorities into mainstream society, and research continues to show that Roma remain one of the most marginalized groups in the European Union. The overrepresentation of Roma people in the EU’s criminal justice system not only contributes to harmful stereotypes, but also destroys the life-chances of Roma people. Criminal justice professionals (lawyers, police, prosecutors and judges) are not immune from the widespread harmful stereotypes and entrenched social attitudes towards Roma people. Growing evidence from outside Europe (particularly from the United States) suggest that unconscious bias in criminal justice actors does have an impact on criminal justice outcomes.

Aims

The project aims toꓽ

a) increase recognition of how negative stereotypes and social attitudes contribute to over-representation of Roma in criminal justice systems;

b) engage criminal justice professionals in identifying key risks of discrimination against Roma, and strategies to improve the fairness of decision-making;

c) identify and exchange global best practice and build a network of anti-discrimination champions across Member States.

Activities

This project includes activities such as: interviews with criminal justice professionals, as well as with Roma people who have expertise and/or experience of how Roma people experience the criminal justice system as suspects and defendants. Each Partner Member State will produce publications that will offer accessible and practical guidance for professionals in relation to each area where there is the greatest risk of discrimination to help them reach decisions which are, and are perceived to be, fair. They will draw on best national and international practices. Alongside the guidance, a short report will be produced with recommendations for longer-term actions to address discrimination in the criminal justice system such as further research where needed, long term training provision and legal and policy reform. Roundtable meetings will be organized in order to engage key stakeholders directly and in detail with the recommendations set out in the draft publications.