The "Sentencing Project" in Washington D.C. says Iowa is number one in the nation for the disproportionate number of blacks in the state’s prisons compared to whites. The seventh annual "Disproportionate Minority Contact" (D-M-C) conference begins in Des Moines Wednesday and focuses on that very issue.
D-M-C’s executive director, Brad Richardson, says the conference discusses the issue in many ways. "We’re looking at the legal system, we have a track for the perspectives from youth themselves, we have a gender specific track, because females are different than males, and so we want to take a look at that," Richardson says, "fundamentally we want to look at juvenile justice, child welfare and the educational system."
Richardson says racism remains the likely cause of blacks being imprisoned at higher rates than whites. "There are other euphemisms out there, and I think now we are talking about things like silent racism or subtle unintended bias. Overt racism isn’t really what’s going on in these cases, it’s really things that are much more subtle and really harder to get a handle on," Richardson says.
The conference runs for three days. Richardson made his comments on the Iowa Public Radio program "The Exchange.