People of color are being treated unfairly as a result of institutionalized racism across the nation and here in Vermont. In the criminal justice system these disparities create challenges ranging from disproportionate traffic stops to overrepresentation in prisons. Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project reported that Vermont leads the nation with “one in 14 African American males incarcerated”. Stephanie Seguino of UVM reported that “the Black arrest rate is almost double the White arrest rate”.
Addressing these challenges requires outreach to our communities and the implementation of mitigating strategies that address implicit bias. Our legislature is positioned to act upon H492 and create an unprecedented Racial Justice Oversight Board. “The Board shall conduct management and oversight of the implementation of racial justice reform across the State, including within the criminal justice system, by managing and overseeing the collection of race-based data, ensuring such data are publicly available, and developing policies and trainings to address systemic implicit bias.”
The establishment of this board will assist in making Vermonters safer and ensuring that Vermont is a place where opportunity exists for everyone. Institutionalized racism hurts us as a State because it erodes trust and creates disunity.