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March 29, 2012

Vermont exploring racial disparties in its prison population

Few people likely think first of Vermont when concerned about racial disparties in the operation of criminal justice systems, but this local article from the Green Mountain State highlights that Vermont's legislators are (justifiably) concerned on this front.  The piece is headlined "Vermont bill calls for study of prison population by race," and here are excerpts:

It’s been a vexing puzzle for years, and Vermont lawmakers have decided to take a step at trying to solve it: Why do African-Americans make up 10.3 percent of Vermont’s prison population when they are just 1 percent of residents in the nation’s second-whitest state?

Traffic stops and roadside searches have been studied for years as a possible source of race-based bias among Vermont law enforcement. A new study, contained in a bill given preliminary approval by the House on Tuesday, will look at whether bias enters the picture when defendants are sentenced in court.

“There’s a dramatic disparity between those who are incarcerated and what our census data show,” said Rep. William Lippert. The Hinesburg Democrat chairs the House Judiciary Committee and described the bill to his House colleagues Tuesday. It won preliminary approval on an overwhelming voice vote and was up for final House action Wednesday before moving to the Senate.

The figures are striking: African-Americans make up just 1 percent of the population of a state that is 95.3 percent white, yet they make up 10.3 percent of Vermont inmates. Put another way, a Vermont inmate is more than 10 times as likely as a resident at large to be African-American.

According to the legislative findings at the beginning of the bill, a statistical technique called regression analysis indicated that black men were 1.5 times more likely, and women 2.6 times more likely, to be arrested in Vermont than their white counterparts....

The bill requires that a key part of the study look at prior criminal records of defendants, including prior convictions from out of state. Appel said there is widespread belief — but not enough data to back it up — that African-Americans frequently get into trouble in Vermont when they bring illegal drugs from elsewhere to sell in the state.

“Is it racial profiling, or black men preying on our kids by selling drugs in our communities? It’s long overdue for us to get a handle on what’s driving these disparities,” Appel said. “That’s what this study is designed to answer.”

March 29, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Permalink


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Vermont law enforcement officers are notorious racists, with an innate ability to discern African-American cars from others.

Vermont 911-dispatchers similarly possess supernatural reaction instincts coupled with Clinton-esque political skills enabling them to both deftly nix responses to crimes by all those save African-Americans, and to thoroughly cover-up their Jim-Crow-like prejudice.

Posted by: Adamakis | Mar 29, 2012 11:13:40 AM

It is not a vexing problem. Blacks commit more crime than whites.

Posted by: Federale | Mar 29, 2012 12:39:21 PM

It is a multi-step process that starts with a complaint and can end with parole. Each step has a relative (Black/White) probability. If the B/W ratio is greater than one for complaint, arrest, being held after initial appearance, conviction, sentencing (including penalty enhancement) to prison and less than one for parole there will be a high B/W ratio in prison. In other words sentencing is just one of many processes that need to be examined.

Posted by: John Neff | Mar 29, 2012 1:49:32 PM

Is there really such a big mystery here? Blacks will stop being overrepresented in the prison system once they stop committing way more than their fair share of crime. Isn't the statistic that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of murders in the USA are committed by blacks although they represent just 12% of the general population?

Posted by: alpino | Mar 29, 2012 3:17:44 PM

Vermont has a low crime rate, perhaps the lowest of the states.

Vermont has a low fraction of black people, perhaps the lowest of the states.


Black people do not have an increased rate of antisocial personality disorder. It may also surprise the lawyer that black people have slightly lower rates of substance abuse than whites. What they have is a high rate of bastardy, from the destruction of the black family by the feminist lawyer. The black family survived hundreds of years of extreme stress. It could not survive the rent seeking feminist lawyer onslaught.

I do not understand why Jews and Blacks support the Democrat Party, the party of the KKK, and of Franklin Roosevelt that refused to bomb the train tracks to concentration camps, and of a Muslim President, apologizing and kowtowing to every Islamic republic. Their support is nearly suicidal in nature.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 30, 2012 8:50:45 AM

Alpino, I know this is late, but I have to say that your ranting about evil feminists and a scary Muslim president trying to turn us into an Islamic nation is not going to draw anyone black or woman to the Republicn party. That you bring up the KKK in this day and age and link it to the modern Democratic party as if they are even relative to each other anymore is laughable. As for the rest of you, if you really just think there are more black people in prisons because they commit so much more crime, then I would love to live in your little bubble world. Things in real-life are never that, pardon the pun, "black and white."

Posted by: Randy | Sep 9, 2012 1:03:16 AM

I am a college student in Vermont, I was born and raised here and am a multi-generational Vermonter. It sincerely bothers me that people really think black people commit more crimes than white people. Isn't it far more likely that a nation that was built on the degradation and dehumanization of others still has lingering racial biases? The prison system and its population reflects a system of institutions working to keep the racial order intact. Overt racism is no longer technically legal or tolerated, therefore the system was restructured to allow whites to be advantaged over people of color in covert manners. You must stop to ask yourself what your privilege is and where it came from. I personally benefit from a system that allows me to be employed based on my qualifications, be accepted to school,acquire housing and to not be stopped and frisked every time I am walking down the street. This is not true for others. We must see things in our society as more cyclical and institutional, rather than place the blame for these inequalities on the people who must deal with them each day.

Posted by: Amanda | Mar 12, 2014 9:21:02 PM

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