I was recently interviewed by Fusion on my path to becoming a senior African American prosecutor. In examining the criminal justice system as a whole, it is extremely important that all of the actors (judges, police, defense attorneys and prosecutors) reflect the community they serve. The article revealed some disturbing statistics; in addition to the previously reported statistic by the Women’s Donor Network that 95% of elected prosecutors are white men, Fusion found:
In counties in the U.S. where people of color represent between 50% and 60% of the population, only 19% of prosecutors are prosecutors of color.
- In counties where people of color represent between 80% and 90% percent of the population, only 53% of the prosecutors are prosecutors of color.
- Only in places where 90% of the population are people of color does the prosecutor pool reflect the diversity of the community.
- Overall, in the 276 counties in the U.S. where people of color represent the majority of the population, only 42%, or less than half, of the prosecutors in these counties are prosecutors of color.
This is why I am tireless in my efforts to bring more people of color into the career of prosecution.
Melba Pearson, a past president of the National Black Prosecutors Association (NBPA), is a woman of color and an assistant state attorney in Miami. She didn’t fully realize how powerful the role of prosecutor was until she became one — somewhat by chance.
Growing up, Pearson was pressed by her father to study the civil rights movement. He noted that heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. were able to accomplish their work partly because “they had amazing defense attorneys to get them out of jail,” she said. “That’s something really ingrained in me since I was young.”
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