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Colloquium: Minorities and The Criminal Justice System

On 28 June 2017 the Department of Child Law and the Van Vollenhoven Institute of Leiden Law School organized the colloquium ‘Minorities and The Criminal Justice System’, with James Bell as the keynote speaker.

The colloquium was opened by Yannick van den Brink and started with a keynote speech by James Bell, Founder and Executive Director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute (Oakland, CA, United States). In his speech, James Bell addressed amongst others the historical role of race in American society and explained how the law can be used as an instrument of social control. In doing so, he provided the context of the racial disparities that still very much exist in criminal justice systems throughout the United States. Additionally, he explained how the Burns Institute tries to identify and ultimately reduce disparities in juvenile justice systems in the United States, by collecting data and collaborating with local stakeholders, including police, probation, prosecutors and courts.

In the second part of the colloquium, three Leiden scholars reflected on the keynote speech and shared their own research findings on related topics. Firstly, Maartje van der Woude shared the findings of her research on ethnic profiling by the police in the Netherlands. Secondly, Sigrid van Wingerden presented the findings of her research on the role of ethnicity in sentencing decisions by Dutch criminal courts. Thirdly, Jasmina Mačkić shared the findings of her research on the way in which the European Court of Human Rights deals with complaints about discriminatory police violence.

The third and final part of colloquium consisted of a debate on amongst others the responsibilities of academics in addressing issues of race and ethnicity, particularly when it comes to disparities in the criminal justice system. Ultimately the colloquium resulted in a fruitful exchange of ideas for future research, collaboration and societally engaged scholarship.     

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