As Douglas County leaders weigh possibly changing or eliminating the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s racial and ethnic disparities work group, some members of the council want the work to get more attention.
Lawrence advocacy group Justice Matters invites community members to an educational meeting about a study that highlighted stark racial disparities in incarceration and found that most bookings into the Douglas County jail are for minor, nonviolent charges, among other conclusions.
Almost one out of every three Black men ages 25-54 living in Douglas County were booked into the jail between 2017 and 2021.
That number is among findings in a recent report by the Vera Institute of Justice examining incarceration here.
Researchers concluded that there is not widespread bias-based policing in Douglas County, but each law enforcement agency has areas of racial disparity and concern. Members of the Lawrence community have offered some feedback on how they can begin to improve.
Researchers have finished a draft report from a long-running law enforcement contact study, which has confirmed that Black drivers are 2.73 times more likely to get stopped than white drivers in Douglas County, and drivers of color are 1.72 times more likely to be searched.
Black people are booked into the Douglas County jail at almost four times the rate of white people, and the incarceration rate of Black people in Douglas County is 6.5 times the rate of white people.
Members of Douglas County’s Behavioral Health Court shared how the program has progressed during the past four years and how administrators might further improve the program in the future during a meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on Tuesday.
Eighty percent of the people incarcerated in the Douglas County jail are there pretrial — meaning they haven’t been convicted and are presumed innocent. That’s just one takeaway from the inmate population data dashboard from the sheriff’s office.
People of Color who are stopped by law enforcement in Douglas County are searched or frisked nearly twice as often as white people, an ongoing study shows. That ratio doesn’t change when the search is the officer’s choice.
After a presentation on racial disparities in bail bonds, the CJCC wants to take a broader look at bond overall, the role it plays, and whether it’s effective in its overall purpose — and drill deeper to get more data.
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