Bridging the racial divide in sentencing in Black Hawk Co. (IA)
When he ascended to the position, Black Hawk County Attorney Brian Williams was aware of the problem. The problem was well documented: African Americans from Black Hawk County were being sent to the state prison system in great disproportion to the rest of Iowa. One writer in the Iowa Law Review stated succinctly, “In simple terms, Black Hawk County has effectively contributed one of five of all African Americans currently in Iowa jails.”
The challenge, Williams related, needed to be addressed on two fronts: the attitude within the office, and developing meaningful alternatives to long-term jail sentences. While the numbers are still not what he would like to see, improvement has been obtained. The Iowa Supreme Court gave our local prosecutors praise by noting two new programs to deal with the problem of long jail stays in overcrowded confinement. The first is called Fast Track and the second Swift, Certain and Fair. Both are designed to stop the staircase of arrests for minor criminal violations leading to longer and longer prison sentences, particularly among African Americans.