Iowa Gov. Chet Culver signed a bill yesterday that would require state officials to determine the potential impact on Iowa minorities of any legislation dealing with criminal sentencing and state grant programs, the Des Moines Register reports. Culver noted that African Americans in Iowa constitute just 2 percent of the state’s population, but account for nearly a quarter of the state’s prison inmates. He also said black students make up 5 percent of Iowa’s elementary and secondary students, but are the subject of 22 percent of suspensions and expulsions.
The Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project says Iowa is the first state to pass such a law. A report by the group last summer found that Iowa incarcerates blacks at a rate 13 times that of whites, more than double the national average. Bills to enact minority impact statements are also pending in Connecticut and Illinois, says the Sentencing Project.