CALIFORNIA (KION) For several years, studies show there's been a lack of minority representation among attorneys across the country and the state.
The California District Attorneys Association initiated their new project, “Journey to Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in California District Attorney Offices. to bridge the representation gap in the state justice system.
"As we've seen historically, people of color have been lifted out of all institutions in our country," said Contra Costa District Attorney Nichelle Holmes "So in order to be able to reform criminal justice, be able to have equity and inclusion, you have to have representation at the table. You can't make any changes if you're not at the table."
According to the Association, the goal of this project is "to educate and inform people of color about the role of the prosecutor in creating safe communities and representing victims, fostering careers in public law, and creating cultural awareness that helps eliminate mistrust in the criminal justice system."
"People think that being a defense attorney is how we affect change in the system," said Deputy District Attorney Melinda Aiello. "I think we all know that change comes from within the DAs offices."
According to the American Bar Association, there are 1.3 million lawyers in the United States. Lawyers of color make up only 11.2%, 5% are Hispanic and 4.7% are African-American.
"We should be paying really close attention to how we are addressing actively engaging, and remedying some of the wrongs with respect to outreach, recruitment, retention, and promotion of people of color and women into the ranks of the prosecutor's office," said Marin County Deputy District Attorney Otis Bruce
Trust between the public and the prosecutor's offices is a very important element of their work, attorneys said. Having attorneys with similar backgrounds will lead to greater confidence in the criminal justice system.
"That's a problem that needs to be addressed by getting people involved and more engaged, inside and outside of the office to look at opportunities to get promoted to get into the leadership ranks so you can work with the policy and be able to talk to your elected DA," said Bruce.
These attorneys will continue to strive to change the lack of representation through different programs that promote diversity and they challenge attorneys to reevaluate the impact they're having in the community they represent.