Study on racial disparity in Vt. justice due soonBy WILSON RING
The Associated Press | January 12,2014MONTPELIER — A study seeking to determine if members of minority groups are treated more harshly by the Vermont criminal justice system than white defendants should be finished before the Legislature adjourns this spring, said the official leading the study.
When the Legislature commissioned the study by the Vermont Center for Justice Research in 2012, it set December as the deadline for the report. But it was delayed because of problems getting the required information from the FBI, according to Max Schlueter, the center’s executive director.
Now his organization and the FBI have agreed on the information that will be provided and they are now working to determine the mechanics of how the information will be shared.
Schlueter briefed the House Judiciary Committee on the progress of the study Friday.
“The Legislature asked us to look into disparities in sentencing,” Schlueter said before the hearing. “But in large part they were really interested in whether or not the sentences of people of color, how does that compare with sentences for white defendants.”
Schlueter said there was no disagreement that minorities are disproportionately represented in Vermont’s criminal justice system.
It’s an issue that in one form or another has bedeviled Vermont law enforcement for some time. Separate studies released in 2012 determined minorities were more likely to be stopped by police than white drivers.
Schlueter said that going beyond traffic stops, anecdotal evidence leads many to believe there are more minorities in Vermont prisons because they came to the state and committed serious crimes.
And before arriving in Vermont many already had significant criminal records that would prompt prosecutors and judges to seek lengthier sentences against them.
But statistically it has been impossible to determine if the minority defendants are being treated more harshly because the studies have only looked at the defendant’s Vermont record. To make an accurate comparison, a study needs to take into account the complete history of the individual.
So the Legislature appropriated $20,000 and the federal government added another $23,000 to get the entire criminal history of a representative sample of defendants over a five-year period.
Schlueter said his office and the FBI have agreed to share the records, specifically looking at histories of charges that include domestic violence, assault and marijuana and cocaine possession.
“It’s a troubling question and our goal, really, is to either put it to rest and say, ‘you know, the courts are in fact color blind’ or say ‘that’s a good story about all these bad guys coming up from the Bronx, but it really isn’t true,’” Schlueter said.
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: In 1944, U.S. begins B-29 bombing raids on Japanese main islands; in 1950, Great Appalachian Storm begins to form; 1963, Lee Oswald killed by Jack Ruby; 1974, D.B. Cooper hijacks Seattle-bound airliner; 1974, 'Lucy' found.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1927, striking Colo. miners attacked with machine guns by state police; 1877, Thomas Edison announces invention of the phonograph, 1959, Alan Freed fired by WABC 770 AM for accepting payola to promote records.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivers short speech in Gettysburg, Pa.; in 1984, a Pemex LNG facility destroyed by series of gas explosions, 600 people are killed; in 1998, Senate builds fire under Bill Clinton.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1831 – Independent South American super-state, Gran Colombia, dissolved; 1856 - Fort Buchanan built to control Apache warriors; 1970 - William Calley Jr. goes on trial after 1968 massacre at My Lai, Vietnam.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy takes advantage of Cold War jitters and builds a tidy little fiefdom for himself on Capitol Hill. It's all good, but pride goes before you know darn well what. The junior senator is damaged going down.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1927, Leon Trotsky is expelled from the Soviet Communist Party, leaving Joseph Stalin in control of the Soviet Union; in 1970, Oregon DOT tries to dynamite a dead whale off a beach with a rather shocking result.