CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Lowcountry leaders are continuing conversations on racial inequality in the tri-county area. They believe involving the community in the process will help find lasting solutions.
Two organizations held virtual meetings on Tuesday afternoon. While each group focused on different facets of the issue, their goal is the same; ending racial injustice in Charleston.
The Charleston Forum is a local non-profit working towards a more unified Charleston. The organization’s 4 pillars are criminal justice, education, economics, and future of the past.
They invited local leaders to discuss the lack affordable housing options and what Charleston County is doing to find a solution.
The council recently approved the first reading of a proposal for redevelopment of Laurel Island; an area that sits right outside Downtown Charleston. If approved for rezoning, the land could be turned into over 4,000 residential units.
Reverend Bill Stanfield, CEO of Metanoia, says the issue runs much deeper than having a shortage of affordable units to give out.
“We’re not doing this issue justice if we don’t talk about the history of race and racism and systemic racism in communities within Charleston. Even today, the median household income for white families, as of a couple years ago, in Charleston was $64,000 and it was $29,000 for black families,” he says.
Recent data show these racial disparities also run deep within the criminal justice system. In a tri-county survey, over 80% agreed that police departments must stop racially profiling “even when effective.”
The issue of racial profiling is just one part of why the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s is working to revamp the criminal justice system.
News 2’s Brad Franko moderated the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s quarterly forum also on Tuesday afternoon. The discussion took a deeper look at what happens during a person’s entry into the criminal justice system.
The group went over ways they can address those inequalities, strengthen jail diversions and deflections from the criminal justice system, focus on fairness and reentry, and achieve advancements in case processing.
One of the organizations biggest advocates, Keith Smalls, says he is proud of everything CJCC has accomplished, but looks forward to more growth and change in the future.
“You know, this is something near and dear to my heart. After serving 19 years in prison and losing a son to gun violence in the North Charleston Community, and being a mentor. I look forward to the future with CJCC and the all things they’re going to do in Charleston County,” he says.
CJCC’S next Community Justice Forum will be held Tuesday, January 5th at 5:30 pm. To stay connected with The Charleston Forum and read their tri-county survey results, click here.