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Kinnelon High School Student Erica Harrison Takes Second Place in Black History Month Essay Contest

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Kinnelon High School student Erica Harrison was awarded second place on February 25, in the 2008 Black History Month Contest for New Jersey High School Students for her essay on Racial Disparity in the Application of Justice entitled, Unresolved: Racial Injustice. The contest, sponsored by the Minorities in the Profession Section, Diversity Committee and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, is designed to give New Jersey high school students a forum on a current, controversial topic. The awards were presented at a reception at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick.

In this year’s contest students were asked to focus on recent events in Jena, Louisiana, which some believe may spark a new civil rights movement. At issue is the disparity between the punishment meted out to Black students and White students for racially motivated actions.

In her essay, Miss Harrison discusses racial profiling and the conclusion that African Americans are more likely to receive harsher punishments that White Americans for the same or similar crimes. She opens her essay with words from the Declaration of Independence, “…all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” She states that “…as evident in various court cases, enforcers of the law do not extend these rights to the racial and ethnic minorities.” Miss Harrison cites several court cases that demonstrate the disparity between sentencing for Black Americans and White Americans. She points out that “…in some states it can be as much as 19 times more likely for an African American to be convicted and sent to prison or jail than a White American charged with the same offense.”

Miss Harrison concludes her essay with the opinion that “Americans, no matter what color skin they have, should be given their full rights guaranteed to them by the law. Enforcers of the law should not be favoring any race over another …”

For her second place effort, Miss Harrison received a $100 gift certificate to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

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