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April 18, 2008

Can and will Iowa's "Minority Impact Statement" legislation help with criminal justice disparities?

In this on-line report, the Sentencing Project spotlights a very interesting legislative development from Iowa.  Here is part of the report:

Iowa Governor Signs Nation's First Racial Impact Sentencing Bill: Less than one year after a national report found Iowa prisons and jails maintain the highest rate of racial disparity in the nation, Governor Chet Culver today signed legislation requiring examination of the racial and ethnic impact of all new sentencing laws prior to passage.

More details about this development can be found at this official report from the Iowa Governor's website.  Here is how it starts:

Today, at the John R. Grubb YMCA in Des Moines, Governor Chet Culver signed into law HF 2393, a bill requiring a “Minority Impact Statement” for any legislation related to a public offense, sentencing, or parole and probation procedures.  The legislation also requires that any application for a grant from a state agency must also include a minority impact statement.

According to Governor Culver, “This means when members of the General Assembly and Executive branch are considering legislation of this nature, we will now be able to do so, with a clearer understanding of its potential effects — positive and negative — on Iowa’s minority communities.   Just as Fiscal Impact Statements must follow any proposed legislation related to state expenditures, with my signature, Minority Impact Statements will serve as an essential tool for those in government — and the public — as we propose, develop, and debate policies for the future of our state.”

This bipartisan legislation passed the Iowa House of Representatives unanimously and passed the Senate overwhelmingly with a vote of 47-2.

I find this news VERY exciting, largely because I am eager to see (1) just what these Iowa Minority Impact Statements end up looking like, and (2) whether these statements have a real impact on crime and justice legislation. 

Also, since the laboratory of the states has a tendency to replicate effective experiments, I am hopeful that a number of other states will start seriously considering following Iowa's lead here.  Moreover, I would be very interested for members of the media to ask the Presidential candidates whether they might support similar legislation at the federal level.

Some related posts on racial disparities in incarceration:

April 18, 2008 at 04:37 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The bill directs the Legislative Service Bureau and Criminal & Juvenile Justice Planning to jointly develop a protocol for the impact statements. I asked them if they had a model for such impact statements and evidently they do not. They probably will have to invent one and the Iowa Protocol will them become the model.

I have a lot of confidence in the Legislative Service Bureau and CJJP staff so I think they will develop a protocol that make sense but I am not as confident that the legislature will accept the protocol as there was an attempt to amend the bill to include victim impact statements. We will have to see if having a protocol it makes any difference.

The racial disparity in Iowa is established at the county level. About 15 of the 99 counties are responsible for over 90% of the minority prison commitments and four counties are responsible for 81% of all Black drug trafficking commitments.

Posted by: John Neff | Apr 18, 2008 6:07:40 PM

"The racial disparity in Iowa is established at the county level. About 15 of the 99 counties are responsible for over 90% of the minority prison commitments and four counties are responsible for 81% of all Black drug trafficking commitments."

I live in Iowa, and to point out something. Growing up in rural Iowa I can speak from experience that there are many counties within Iowa that probably do not have many 'non white' minorities in them. Growing up in Lucas county we had one full African American in town, and another half white half African American (brother and sisters).

Most minorities in Iowa stick to the bigger cities. Thats probably why those statistics look that way.

Posted by: Mark | Apr 20, 2008 2:31:42 PM

Mark

A high proportion of the minorities live in the more populous counties as you have noted but the computed disparity is based on the minority population of each county. All but one county committed persons to prison in FY06 and for 35 counties there were no minorities (as you expected) but for the other 64 counties the percentage of minorities admitted ranged from 3% to 50%. There is no county in Iowa with a 50% minority population and a 3% minority commitment rate can be a disparity for a small county with few minorities. Allamakee County with a 50% minority commitment rate has a population of about 20,000. The racial disparity has already been established when the person is arrested and booked into jail and the disparity is further amplified by case processing at the county level prior to arraignment.

Posted by: John Neff | Apr 20, 2008 3:42:02 PM

Thanks! Great Blog! Very useful information!

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Posted by: חלקי חילוף לרכב | Jan 3, 2011 8:02:11 AM

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