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State prisons implement plan to reduce racial disparity

The Iowa Department of Corrections is rolling out a new policy to identify and address racial disparities in the state’s prison system. Iowa Corrections Director Beth Skinner says all staff are now required to take what’s called implicit bias training, as the department seeks out data to identify racial disparities in discipline, access to treatment, work assignments, and other aspects of incarceration.

“There’s certain things we can’t control,” Skinner says. “There’s certain things we can control, and those things that we can control, we have built a policy around to make sure everyone has equal access to treatment, people are getting treated fairly in our system.” Iowa has one of the nation’s worst records for disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans. Skinner says it’s important for the whole criminal justice system to address this issue.

“If we see there’s a great difference between races, then we kind of look under the hood,” she says. “And we see if a policy or practice is maybe causing this disparity, and if it is, we have an action plan.”

The first batch of this data is scheduled for release in January.



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