Vermont: Among the National Leaders in Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System ?

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Vermont Ranks Among The Highest in the Nation in Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice System – Why is this the case and is it getting any better?

Recently released research reveals the most problematic states facing challenges with racial disparities in the criminal justice system. This release focuses on Vermont and provides perspective and novel insight on the path forward from the report author as a well as a Vermont racial justice activist.

For immediate Release:

Montpelier, Vermont, June 27, 2016 – A new report on racial disparities in state prisons provides evidence of a disproportionately high rate of incarceration of African American Vermonters. “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in State Prisons” from The Sentencing Project in Washington DC shows Vermont has the third highest rate in the United States of incarceration of black people in state prisons per 100,000 black residents. 2357 black Vermonters are incarcerated per 100,000 black residents. That compares to a rate of 225 whites per 100,000 white residents. The release of this report coincides with the recently released data form Vermont State Police and local agencies suggesting that traffic stop racial disparities have increased in Vermont over the past five years. I believe that this is as a result of the lack of transparency and a culture of denial” said Mark Hughes, Co-founder of Vermont Justice For All.

The [Color of Justice] report shows rates of incarceration of adult black men vary across the nation from as high as 1 in 14 in Vermont to as low as 1 in 61 in Hawaii. With the inclusion of jail and federal inmates the rate would be even higher. Hughes went on to say, “In moving forward it is important that we move past using the collection of data to prove (or disprove) racial disparity, to that of using it to measure our progress towards parity. Consistent collection of race related metrics data, made available to the public ensures accountability and facilitates continuous internal analysis to ensure effective program management.”

Awareness of racial disparities in prison populations is not new, and there have been numerous attempts to identify the causes. As “The Color of Justice” highlights, research shows that racial differences in offending rates are not enough to explain the disparities, particularly for less serious crimes and drug crimes.

“What the report shows is that, despite the efforts Vermont has made to reduce racial disparities in incarceration, the problem persists,” said Dr. Ashley Nellis, Senior Researcher at The Sentencing Project who wrote the report. “There are decision points throughout the criminal justice system when law enforcement officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and/or judges may be predisposed to view one group differently from another. Addressing this differential treatment through meaningful reform should be an urgent priority for state officials and those working within Vermont’s justice system.”

Vermont is 5th in the nation for Black : White racial disparities in the criminal justice system. 1 in 14 black men are incarcerated in a state prison in Vermont, compared to an average across all states of 1 in 26. Hughes said, “Law makers in Vermont must mandate the transparency required to identify points of discretion in the criminal justice system and demand commitment to metrics, policy, training and corrective actions from law enforcement as well as prosecutors, judges and defenders as required to ensure that Vermont lives up to it’s narrative of openness and fairness. “

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http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp- content/uploads/2016/06/The-Color-of-Justice-Racial-and-Ethnic-Disparity-in-State-Prisons.pdf

Dr. Ashley Nellis, Senior Researcher at The Sentencing Project and Mark Hughes, Co-founder, Justice For All are each available for interview.

About Justice For All

Justice for All is a Vermont-based, racial justice non-profit organization that identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism and facilitates healing and empowerment in Vermont communities. They ensure justice for all through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform and judicial monitoring. To this end they address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

 

Contact Information:

Mark Hughes

mark@justiceforallvt.org

802.532.3030

 

Justice For All Leads Social Justice Review Process for State Candidates

Why Social Justice Reviews?

PRESS RELEASE:

Should there be a discussion on racial justice with of candidates across the Vermont?

Racial justice has been a sensitive but important topic as the political, racial and social crosswinds blow across America but Vermont has been deafeningly quiet on the matter. Justice For All, a racial justice organization is leading the effort in having these discussions with the candidates across the state.

Contact Information

For immediate Release:

Montpelier, Vermont, July 5, 2016 – Justice For All, a racial justice organization, has announced that they are currently conducting “Social Justice Reviews” with various candidates across the state, ahead of elections. Elizabeth Parker, a member of the Diocesan Council of the Episcopal Church in Vermont (focusing on dismantling racism) said “these reviews give us an opportunity to initiate a dialogue with the candidates on the challenges relating to institutionalized racism, including racial disparities in the criminal justice system and mass incarceration.”

A report released this month by Ashley Nellis of the Sentencing Project placed Vermont at number one in the nation at a rate of 1 in 14 African American males in State Prison.  The reports of Dr Jack McDevett of Northeastern University and Stepahanie Seguino of UVM indicate that in the past five years, the situation in Vermont has actually worsened concerning racial disparities related to traffic stops and searches by State, Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and UVM police.

Ebony Nyoni, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Vermont said, “We are interested in understanding the candidate’s views on these issues. Our hope is to also gain their commitment to addressing justice system racial disparities as a high priority issue.” The first of these forums was conducted on June 22nd where a panel reviewed Francis Brooks, Anthony Pollina, Ann Cummings and Ashley Hill. The video can be found on Onion River Community Access (ORCA) and the Justice For All website.

Mark Hughes, Co-founder of Justice For All said “Our hope is that lawmakers in Vermont will mandate the transparency and accountability required to identify points of discretion in the entire criminal justice system and demand commitment to metrics, policy, training and corrective actions from law enforcement as well as prosecutors, judges and defenders as required to ensure that Vermont lives up to it’s narrative of openness and fairness. “

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About Justice For All

Justice for All is a Vermont-based, racial justice non-profit organization that identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism and facilitates healing and empowerment in Vermont communities. They ensure justice for all through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform and judicial monitoring. To this end they address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Below is the the Social Justice Review of Washington County Democratic candidates.

We found the event to be both informative and productive.

Show-times (ORCA)  for the Washington County Democratic Senatorial Social Review are below:

Mon  7/11    9:05 AM

Sat     7/16    6:00 PM

Mon  7/25   9:09 AM

Sat     7/30   6:00 P

Source: Candidate Social Justice Review | Onion River Community Access Media

Petition · A Call For Vermont State Democrats to Embrace Bernie’s Racial Justice Vision · Change.org

The racial justice aspect of the National Political Revolution has yet to make it to Vermont.  It has had little to no impact on the debate and the platform here at home in Vermont.  A report released this month by Ashley Nellis of the Sentencing project, placed Vermont at number one in the nation at a rate of 1 in 14 African American males in State Prison.  The report of Dr Jack McDevett of Northestern University as well as the report of Stepahanie Seguino of UVM indicate that in the past five years the situation in Vermont has actually worsened concerning racial disparities in traffic stops and searches by State, Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and UVM police.

Does the contrast that this and the narrative of Vermont’s progressive attitude of inclusiveness and equality present us with a paradox or does it reveal hypocrisy? Where is your voice on this?

Please sign this petition if you’d like to see us do better at moving racial justice to the forefront of our political discourse and platform.

 

Source: Petition · A Call For Vermont State Democrats to Embrace Bernie’s Racial Justice Vision · Change.org

Racial Disparities In State Prisons: The Problem With The Existing Narrative In Vermont

Uneven Justice

Racial Disparities In State Prisons: 

The Problem With The Existing Narrative In Vermont

By Mark Hughes and Ashley Nellis, PhD

A new report on racial disparities in state prisons underscores the need for policymakers and state administrators in Montpelier to take a hard look at the policies, practices and prejudices that are playing out in our state’s criminal justice system.

By disaggregating and analyzing U.S. Justice Department data the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization The Sentencing Project found that nationally, African Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites across the nation. In Vermont the ratio is even higher at 10 times the rate of whites across the nation. In fact, Vermont is the highest in the nation with one in 14 of all African American adult males in state prison.

The findings come in a period when many states, including Vermont, have responded to assertions of unfairness in the justice system in the aftermath of the highly reported Trayvon Martin shooting four years ago in Florida and the shooting and racial protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere more recently.

Policymakers and administrators in Vermont are aware of the disparities. Several states have legislated sentencing reforms or re-categorized drug cases in particular, which account for many of the convictions that lead to racial and ethnic disparities, so that possession and use of drugs is more likely today to lead to treatment rather than extended imprisonment. State officials know that in the aggregate African Americans are not disproportionately likely to commit certain drug crimes, but they nevertheless are more likely to wind up in prison where whites convicted of similar offenses may get alternative outcomes.

One of many practices that contribute to racial disparities in the criminal justice system in Vermont is the disproportionate number of traffic stops and searches of African Americans by law enforcement. The Vermont Advisory Committee to United States Commission on Civil Rights provided a briefing on the challenges of Racial Profiling in 2009. Some of the recommendations have yet to be undertaken. Traffic stop data analysis in 2012 concluded that African Americans were being stopped and searched at disproportionate rates by Vermont State (VSP), Burlington, South Burlington, UVM and Winooski Police Departments. In spite of a legislative mandate to collect race-based traffic stop data issued in 2012, this data is only beginning to become publicly accessible in 2016. VSP’s initial decision (in 2012) to release their data to third parties for analysis created discussion surrounding research veracity and efficacy and did little to provide true transparency or adopt the research as a benchmark from which to move forward. This year (with VSP’s long awaited release of five years of data), VSP released the data to Northeastern University and UVM as well as posted the raw data on their site.

The report released this month by Ashley Nellis of the Sentencing project, placed Vermont at number one in the nation at a rate of 1 in 14 African American males in State Prison. The report released by Dr Jack McDevett of Northestern University as well as a recent report from Stepahanie Seguino of UVM indicates that in the past five years the situation in Vermont has actually worsened concerning racial disparities in traffic stops and searches by State, Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and UVM police.  This is clearly as a result of the lack of transparency and a culture of denial. Dr. Stephanie Seguino’s (UVM) report on this last data set is due to be released this week. In moving forward it is important that we move past using the collection of data to prove (or disprove) racial disparity, to that of using it to measure our progress towards parity. The consistent public release of the data will provide the transparency required for accountability in this area.  Internal commitment to progress, analysis of this data, policy implementation, training, and corrective actions (as required) will also be necessary to move these efforts forward. It is also important that we understand that this is a very small part of a much larger challenge.

In general, the national report suggests that while overt racism may not continually come into play in the criminal justice system, there are points of discretion in the system where arresting officers, prosecutors, judges and even defense attorneys may be predisposed to view one group differently from another. Policy makers in Vermont must work to achieve the transparency required to identify these points of discretion in the system and demand similar commitment to metrics, policy, training and corrective actions as required to ensure that Vermont lives up to it’s narrative of openness and fairness.

Concerns about differential treatment is important not only because every American is constitutionally entitled to fair and equal treatment under the law, but because of the collateral consequences that are attached to criminal convictions – reduced access to housing, education and employment opportunity chief among them.

There is a growing recognition across the country that mass incarceration practices have not contributed to public safety, but have instead created a system that is inefficient, unsustainable, and unfair mass incarceration has perpetuates disadvantages that African Americans and other people of color have endured historically. Solving foundational problems through improved access to education, decent housing, prevention services focused on at-risk youth, and job training and placement is continually challenging but important.

But equally crucial, and probably more immediately manageable, is the identification and remediation of the policies and behaviors that lead to over-incarceration and racial disparities in prison in Vermont and elsewhere. State officials must fashion reforms that make the justice system smarter, fairer and less costly both in dollars and in the loss of human potential. We owe it to ourselves in this political, social and racial climate of change in 2016.

Mark Hughes is an advocate for racial justice affiliated with Justice For All in Vermont. Ashley Nellis, Ph. D., is a senior researcher for The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., and author of The Color of Justice: racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons, available at http://www.sentencingproject.org

Department of Justice Announces New Department-Wide Implicit Bias Training for Personnel

We are pleased to see the Department of Justice lead in this important work.  Their commitment to training all law enforcement and prosecutors to address implicit biases speaks to their understanding that racial disparities exist throughout the entire criminal justice system.  It is our hope in keeping with a tradition of progressive leadership that Vermont would choose to expand implicit bias policy and training to all who serve us in the criminal justice system.

Source: Department of Justice Announces New Department-Wide Implicit Bias Training for Personnel | OPA | Department of Justice

Is bias-free policing possible?

Here is a discussion on the Fair and Impartial policing policy that we have been working on with Migrant Justice, Peace and Justice Center and ACLU.  There is much more to do in terms of implementation, training and monitoring. It is important to understand that there are numerous other areas in law enforcement and across that remainder of the criminal justice system that require analysis to facilitate further transparency.

A look at what’s being done in Vermont to prevent profiling when people get pulled over.

Source: Is bias-free policing possible?

Central Vermont Showing Up For Racial Justice (ctVTSURJ) Announces Film Series

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First Film:  Saturday June 25th 7:00-8:30pm
Where:  Plainfield Opera House

Introducing The Ella Baker Documentary

FUNDI: Ella Baker Documentary (48 mins.)
This film reveals the instrumental role that Ella Baker, a friend and advisor to Martin Luther King, played in shaping the American civil rights movement. The dynamic activist was affectionately known as the Fundi, a Swahili word for a person who passes skills from one generation to another. By looking at the 1960s from the perspective of Baker, the “godmother of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,” FUNDI adds an essential understanding of the U.S. civil rights movement.

Film followed by brief discussion. $7 suggested donation to go to the: http://iamvt2.org/ project, challenging racial micro-aggressions in VT. Wheel chair accessible. Child care provided. Please refrain from wearing any fragrances.

Watch this dynamic trailer now!

Washington County Democratic Senatorial Social Justice Review | VTDigger

News Release — Justice for All June 20, 2016 Contact: Mark Hughes Co­Founder, Justice for All 802.426.6227 mark@justiceforallvt.org http://justiceforallvt.org/ Montpelier, VT, June 20, 2016 – Join the democratic candidates for Washington County Senator to discuss Social Justice Issues and Policies in Vermont Wednesday, June 22 6-­8 PM at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier. This past year […]

Source: Washington County Democratic Senatorial Social Justice Review | VTDigger

Washington County Democratic Senatorial Social Justice Review

 

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Washington County Democratic Senatorial Social Justice Review

Join the democratic candidates for Washington County Senator to discuss Social Justice Issues and Policies in Vermont Wednesday, June 22nd  6-8 PM at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier. This past year has brought to light issues of racial, criminal, migrant, and refugee justice. Candidates attending include: incumbents Ann Cummings and Anthony Pollina and candidates Ashley Hill and Frances Brooks (invited).

Various members from local social justice organizations will be in attendance, including Black Lives Matter VT https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatterVermont ,  Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform https://vermontersforcriminaljusticereform.org/, Central Vermont Showing Up for Racial Justice (CVtSURJ), https://www.facebook.com/CVtSURJ/, Peace & Justice Centerhttp://www.pjcvt.org/ and Justice for All  http://justiceforallvt.org/.

Topics of discussion will include fair and impartial policing, de-escalation, restorative justice, migrant rights and refugee relocation to Vermont.  Come join the conversation and find out where your candidate stands on these important issues