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Criminal justice reform can help combat health inequality

Racial and ethnic inequality in the criminal justice system has become a matter of serious attention in Florida and across the country. This is especially true in the case of felony drug possession offenses, which may carry lengthy sentences as well as other sanctions. Researchers note that the intense focus on drug prosecutions that began across the country in the 1970s often placed disparate attention on communities of color with resulting effects that have been devastating in a number of social areas.

Researchers who published one study noted that criminal justice reform that reclassifies felony drug offenses as misdemeanors can help to address the problems of racial inequality in the justice system and excessive incarceration. In addition, they argued that other key social measures, such as health outcomes, can be positively affected by this type of reform. When people are convicted of felony drug crimes, they can lose access to jobs, public housing and student loans. The repercussions of this kind of conviction can be felt for years at a community level as well as an individual one.

The researchers noted that social and economic factors play a major role in health outcomes and that racial and ethnic inequality in health continues to be a major concern. They argued that as these types of reforms have been effective in reducing inequalities in felony arrests between black and white defendants, they can also help to reduce health disparities. Citing the example of such a reclassification in California, they noted that both the total number of felony arrests and the racial disparity of such arrests declined with reform.

Drug charges can have a severe impact on any person's life with harsh penalties and long-lasting repercussions. A criminal defense attorney may work to avoid a conviction by challenging police evidence and procedures as well as presenting a defense before trial and in the courtroom.

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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