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Iowa Gov. Signs Nation’s First Racial Impact Sentencing Bill

Iowa Gov. Signs Nation’s First Racial Impact Sentencing Bill


Dear Friends,
            
      Less than one year after a national report found Iowa prisons and jails maintain the highest rate of racial disparity in the nation, Governor Chet Culver yesterday signed legislation requiring examination of the racial and ethnic impact of all new sentencing laws prior to passage.       "Iowa’s aggressive attempt to address racial and ethnic disparity can jumpstart a movement for fairness around the nation," said Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project and co-author of the report that helped instigate the legislative response.       Passage of the Minority Impact Statement Bill provides a means for legislators to anticipate any unwarranted disparities and enables them to consider alternative policies to accomplish the goals of legislation without causing undue negative effects on public safety. High rates of incarceration among people of color signal a failure to address social and economic problems within communities and can indicate bias within the justice system. The consequences for communities are disproportionate rates of voter disenfranchisement, unemployment, and disassociation among its citizens.        Representative Wayne Ford (D- Des Moines) authored the legislation, House File 2393, which garnered broad bipartisan support when passed by Iowa’s House and Senate. In a statement he said, "I believe that we need to be tough on crime, but we must also make sure that our laws are fair and equitable."       In July, The Sentencing Project released its report, Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity, which found that Iowa incarcerates blacks at a rate 13 times that of whites, more than double the national average. Iowa is the first state to pass legislation examining the racial and ethnic impact of new criminal justice policies. Bills to enact minority impact statements are also pending in Connecticut and Illinois.  Last year, Oregon was the first state to introduce similar legislation. For more information, visit the Governor’s Web site
 
                                                          – The Sentencing Project