On this holiday to mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior’s fight for equal rights for blacks, a University of Iowa researcher suggests there is "institutional racism" in Iowa’s justice system.
Brad Richardson of the University of Iowa School of Social Work says there’s a link between the disproportionate number of African Americans in Iowa prisons and the higher-than-usual number of black kids who get suspended or expelled from Iowa schools.
Richardson also points to the high number of black kids in Iowa who get arrested and put in detention compared to white kids who commit some of the same misdemeanor crimes. "There’s a range of problems in each of these systems. These systems are connected. We’ve been doing research," Richardson says. "…I think raising awareness is one key to creating better services, but I don’t think we have a proposal out there for it, that if you do ‘A’ this will bring the disproportionality down."
David Gibson with the Family and Children Council in Waterloo says there is a "legacy of racisim." "What do I mean and how does race and racism play into it? When two different people — white, black — commit the same offenses but get different sentences," Gibson says. "…Same with the school system (when whites and blacks) commit the same misbehavior in school. One gets suspended. One goes to in-school detention."
Richardson agrees. "There is certainly what some call subtle, unintended…racial bias. Some would use the term institutional racism," Richardson says. "It sure is there." Richardson and Gibson made their comments on the program "Iowa Journal" which airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.