The last in a series of hearings will invite public comment on the Iowa prison population this afternoon in Des Moines. Particularly, the topic is black inmates, as state representative Wayne Ford says fellow blacks show up in higher numbers behind bars, than in the general population.He says one in 12 black men in Iowa is in jail or on probation, which concerns Ford as an Iowan, a lawmaker, and a black man. He says surveys in the 1980s and 1990s showed the same disparity, and that indicates to him the system isn’t fair to minorities. Ford says people who’ve come to hearings so far in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Waterloo and Sioux City have noted a lack of role models where they’re needed.Ford says there are some role models, but few talk to young black men in prison. He says government can’t magically make things better. Ford says black leaders, churches, even businesses must get involved. After today final hearing, the task force recommendations and the public comments will be used to try and create a strategy for addressing the problem.He says if it’s not addressed, for 10 or 20 more years Iowa will be in the top ten states for incarcerating black men. African-Americans make up two percent of Iowa’s total population, and account for 25 percent of the state’s prison population. The problem came to light when research showed Iowa second in the nation for incarceration of black men, behind only Washington, D.C. Ford himself is in trouble with the law right now for allegedly harboring and employing a relative who walked away from a halfway house in D.C. Ford denies wrongdoing.
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