As a new legislative panel kicked off its work Monday to chart a path toward action to achieve racial equity, Suffolk County’s top prosecutor urged lawmakers to turn their attention three years into the past.

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins told the Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion Committee that her office continues to struggle with a “staggering lack of standardized and transparent data” about the criminal justice system, even in the wake of a 2018 law that implemented numerous data reporting requirements.

Rollins said her team still receives paper copies of documents even though partner agencies are storing the information electronically, making it difficult to track changes in crime and recidivism rates that could stem from policy changes.

The Legislature must step in and enforce the data collection and sharing requirements in the 2018 law to help address inequities, Rollins said.

“The answers we need, the answers this committee ne eds, are out there. They exist,” Rollins said, later telling lawmakers, “We need buy-in, and we need you guys to exert the power you definitely have.”

The Legislature created the Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion Committee this session, and its co-chairs convened their first hearing on Monday to hear input on policy priorities from lawmakers, community leaders, and advocacy groups.

Suggestions posed to the committee ranged across issue areas, from reparations for slavery to disaggregation of data to better track population subgroups to closing a staggering wage gap that results in lower pay for people of color. 

(Copyright (c) 2024 State House News Service.

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