Racial disparity in Iowa corrections system 7th highest in the nation

Racial disparity in Iowa corrections system 7th highest in the nation
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 7:46 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DES MOINES, Iowa - Only 4% of Iowans are Black, but Black Iowans make up 25% of people in prisons and jails according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The Prison Policy Initiative ranks Iowa’s racial disparity in the corrections system as seventh highest in the nation.

The Hawkeye State’s incarceration rate is two and a half times higher than Canada and the United Kingdom’s combined. Veronica Fowler with the ACLU of Iowa says the state locks too many people up.

“Iowa, like most other states, has a mass incarceration problem. We tend to lock up people for reasons that have very little to do with public safety and have everything to do with just being punitive,” Fowler said.

New data from the Prison Policy Initiative shows Black Iowans are incarcerated at a rate 9 times higher than white Iowans

“This study shows once again that the cards are stacked against black people in our legal system every step of the way and again systemic racism has become like kind of a dog whistle term, but it really does mean something,” Fowler said.

A bill proposed by Governor Kim Reynolds to ban racial profiling by law enforcement has failed to pass the legislature twice.

Fowler says mass incarceration has many societal impacts.

“These are people who are being removed from their children, their families, and it has a huge individual cost as well,” Fowler said.

Fowler says the justice system doesn’t just disadvantage people based on skin color - it also disadvantages poor people.

“If you have money, you or your family can get you a good lawyer. You’re gonna spend less time in jail or prison than if you don’t have those things, and that’s that’s not any way to administer judge Justice,” Fowler said.

Fowler says one step state leaders could take is to treat people with addiction rather than punishment, noting it’s cheaper than incarceration.