Bill filed to require racial impact statements | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bill filed to require racial impact statements

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 9:46 AM

click to enlarge Sen. Joyce Elliott - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Sen. Joyce Elliott

A bill filed in the Arkansas Senate would require racial impact assessments for certain criminal justice bills.

Senate Bill 237 would apply to proposals in the Senate and House of Representatives that would make substantive changes to laws related to Class A misdemeanors and felonies. Each racial impact statement would evaluate whether the proposed legislation would unequally target certain racial and ethnic groups or otherwise exacerbate the racial inequalities found in the criminal justice system. The state Office of Economic and Tax Policy, along with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law and Hendrix College, would research and prepare the statements.

Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock), lead sponsor of the bill, says she wants legislators to ask, “Will this bill have a disparate impact on minority groups?”

Significant racial disparities exist in prisons and jails across the nation. In Arkansas, while black men make up 16 percent of the state population, they comprise approximately 42 percent of those incarcerated, according to a 2016 report by the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Elliott said, “Rather than just accept that, I think it’s important for us to step back and say, wait a minute. Could we be a part of the problem? Because after all, we are the ones passing the laws.”

Elliott introduced similar legislation in both 2013 and 2015 session. The bills failed in the Senate both times. But Adjoa Aiyetoro, director of the Racial Disparities in Arkansas Criminal Justice System Research Project, a project of the UALR Bowen School of Law, says she is “cautiously optimistic” of the bill’s success this year.

This is “about creating a process that would give [legislators] more information to be the best of lawmakers” Aiyetoro said.

The bill is modeled after similar legislation that passed in Iowa in 2007, which also requires analysts to assess the racial impact of criminal justice bills. Connecticut and Oregon also have laws that require racial impact statements.

Nicole Porter, director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., says the Arkansas proposal is the “strongest proposal that’s been introduced to date.”

Elliott worked closely with The Sentencing Project as well as the legislator who passed similar legislation in Iowa when drafting SB 237. She also hosted community forums around the state and studied the disparate impact on minorities that already existed in the criminal justice system.

Porter said, “If Arkansas lawmakers were to adopt Senate Bill 237 as introduced … . It would elevate Arkansas as a model in terms of being intentional about good policymaking and being intentional about addressing racial impacts as a result of policymaking.”

*A previous headline and version of this story said that Elliott expected to present her bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee today. That's not going to happen, she tells us.

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.

Tags: , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Brooke Nelson

  • Amended racial impact study bill clears House committee

    An amended version of a bill that would allow for racial impact assessments for certain criminal justice bills advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday on a 10-7 vote with three members not voting.
    • Mar 30, 2017
  • Bill to give state more input on campus sexual assault advances

    A bill that would require the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create an action plan for addressing sexual assault on college campuses advanced out of the House Education committee on Thursday on a voice vote with no dissent.
    • Mar 2, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • IHOP coming down, but .....

    I always scan the Little Rock City Board for items of interest this week and this one caught my eye: A zoning measure required by a proposal to tear down the IHOP at Markham and University.
    • Apr 30, 2016
  • LR speakers blast state board for double standard

    A series of speakers, beginning with Sen. Joyce Elliott, denounced what they saw as a hidden agenda favoring charter schools at the state Department of Education and asked the state Board of Education for return of local control.
    • May 12, 2016
  • The long and winding road: No exception yet for 30 Crossing

    The Arkansas highway department's representative on the Metroplan board of directors told the board today that the department is requesting an exception to the planning agency's cap on six lanes for its 30 Crossing project to widen Interstate 30 from six to 10 (and more) lanes.
    • Jun 29, 2016

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Anybody around?

    • Great story deadseasquirrel! I haven't heard the NPR version. As someone who grew up during…

    • on November 24, 2017
  • Re: Anybody around?

    • NVR, have you heard arlo's performance of Alice's Restaurant that was on npr some thanksgiving,…

    • on November 24, 2017
  • Re: Anybody around?

    • Max and friends please listen to first two hours of this- November 20, 2017. Dane…

    • on November 24, 2017



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation