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July 18, 2007

Examining the disconcerting realities of racial disparities

Racial_disparity Today's Des Moines Register has this lead article examining racial disparities in prison populations. The article is entitled, "Black-white prisoner ratio highest in U.S: How can Iowa change this? Study urges sentencing reform, better defense for indigents; some Iowans urge bolder steps."  Here are snippets:

A national study released today ranks Iowa No. 1 in the nation in the ratio of blacks to whites in prison — a statistic that many advocates say underscores a failure to address one of the state's most serious problems.  The study by the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project found Iowa incarcerates blacks at a rate 13.6 times that for whites — more than double the national average.

Across the country, blacks are imprisoned at nearly six times the rate for whites. Latinos are imprisoned at nearly double the rate for whites nationally.  The study by the criminal justice advocacy and research group recommended several remedies for all states, including drug sentencing reform, more judicial discretion in sentencing and better standards for indigent defense.

But black leaders say Iowa — which has been among the national leaders in the incarceration of black men for years — needs to make much more comprehensive changes. Reps. Ako Abdul-Samad and Wayne Ford, two of the state's four black lawmakers, called for all Iowans to work together on the issue and for the Legislature to make the disproportion a top priority in 2008.

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July 18, 2007 at 07:54 AM | Permalink


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It is not just prisons the incarceration rate for Blacks in US jails is 800 per 100,000 and the rate for Blacks in Iowa jails is 1,362 per 100,000 according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
A related fact is that 50% of the Blacks in Iowa are below the poverty rate where the national average is 25% below the poverty level. In our county the median family income for Blacks is $22,000 and the median family income for all races is $60,000.

In our county jail Blacks are responsible for 52% of the bed use for felony crimes against persons and property and felony drug offenses. They are also responsible for 52% of the bed use for contempt, parole/probation violations and non-contact order violations. Whites are responsible for 83% of the bed use for crimes against public order (enhanced charges for public intoxication and DUI).

Persons in jail for more than three weeks are very likely to be returned to prison on a revocation of parole or sent to prison on a new conviction or probation revocation.

Posted by: JSN | Jul 18, 2007 8:43:54 AM

Will someone please tell me I'm wrong. There was a time when White people were committing white collar crimes and were given probation for the first conviction. Now when the people of color figure the games out, the laws were change.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 18, 2007 11:45:09 AM

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