A committee appointed by the governor to examine racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system has released a series of recommendations, like expanding drug courts and taking steps to get more minorities on Iowa juries. But Betty Andrews, the president of the NAACP of Iowa and Nebraska, says the committee didn’t go far enough.
“While we appreciate the recommendations that are coming forward, there’s no way that these would resolve the systemic issues that are in place in our criminal justice system,” Andrews told reporters.
The committee is also recommending that legislators tackle criminal sentencing reform. Andrews told the committee there should be a permanent state commission to keep attention focused on the issue.
“What we’re looking for is equality,” Andrews said. “We’re looking for equity. We’re looking for people being treated equally and that’s not happening all the time in Iowa.”
African-Americans are disproportionately represented in Iowa prisons and in drug arrests. Nearly nine-and-a-half percent of the black men in Iowa are in prison. Only two other states have a higher proportion of black men in prison. The chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court raised concerns about the situation in January, pointing out that while just 10 percent of the teenagers in Johnson County are black, more than half of the kids who are arrested in the Iowa City area are black.
(Reporting by Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell)