By Emily Wingett

The policy of Redliningbegan in the early twentieth century however, as administrative agencies which brought about this policy may have assumed, the effects of that policy are still felt in 2019. Redlining policies came out of the desire for racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools and anti-immigrant sentiments.  Although many of the municipal legislatures and local policy makers of the early twentieth century may claim that this policy was not facially race based, it was intended to have a disparate impact on minorities. Redlining began when the Federal Agency, the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), gave neighborhoods ratings to guide investment (through mortgage loans to home purchasers). The color red signified the most dangerous and riskiest area for investments, which were predominantly communities of color, mostly because the rating system was largely based on racial demographics of the neighborhood. This policy made homeownership for minorities, primarily black and brown people, nearly impossible. The government essentially poured resources into white communities while discouraging investment in these “less desirable” communities, which they framed with the “threat” of racial influence. The lack of money coming into neighborhoods through  home ownership then affected the community’s ability to provide for its residents, for example, schools have less money due to fewer houses with property taxes. This neighborhood coding system alluded to the dangers of communities of color, and was then echoed later when many of those same communities become communities with higher crime rates and higher police patrol rates.

The use of Redlining set the stage and tone for many communities of color to become “high crime” areas. With the government’s limited investment in the communities, it became harder for those communities to thrive. Many of the communities that were deemed hazardous by HOLC in the 1930’s are still communities of color and/or low-income areas. Many of the redlined areas of cities to this day, remain low income and often have higher crime rates. One argument that can be made for the higher crime rates is the over-policing of these areas. Police officers are often trained in the most dangerous area of the cities which predominantly correlates with low income communities or communities of color and reinforced by the disinvestment in these areas. Redlined communities were over-policed and thus had higher arrest rates. Many of the people in these communities, with the hypervigilance of police, would be stopped and arrested for small crimes, earning them a “RAP” sheet. Once they had a rap sheet, police had more authority to stop them, and place them back in custody. In these “high crime” areas, it was hard for many incarcerated individuals to return to a normal life because their communities were faltering, and for some, provided little or no legal means of self-support. These communities are those that are served by public defender offices. The criminal justice system does often not allow mitigation by which juries and judges to consider the socio-economic position that place individuals in the system in the first place. This continues a cycle of poverty and criminal activity in many low-income areas, where the government is unwilling or unable to invest in the community. One important example of the willful blindness to the plight of individuals involved in the criminal justice system, is the structure of the Evidence Codes and therefore, trial procedures. Many of the Evidence Code rules do not allow the defense to bring in evidence of the defendant’s upbringing or socio-economic status as it is deemed “irrelevant” and only used to garner sympathy for the defendant. One could argue that although socio-economic status does not excuse behavior, it serves as context to understanding why certain actions were taken, by the defendant. The criminal justice system attempts to look at crime in a vacuum, but the world does not operate in this type of universe. So many different factors influence behavior, including where people live and the support that is provided in that community. Redlining was the start of a vicious cycle for many communities. The high crime rates, among other factors, can be tied back to redlining, because it solidified the disinvestment in these communities. Without the necessary resources to support the community, families could not fix homes, business closed, and youth education slipped. All of these factors increased the wealth gap between the red and blue and green more highly rated communities. 

Redlining was the official start of a cycle that would tear down communities of color. Once it was deemed less desirable, the community could not afford to invest in itself, thus businesses left and over-policing arose, which led to further disinvestment. Many of these communities are stuck in this endless whirlpool, with no sufficient assistance by the government to rectify their part in degradation of the community.