Local and regional chapters of the NAACP hosted the Fourth Annual Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities Friday in Ankeny. The gathering comes one year after a governor appointed working group made recommendations on criminal justice policy reform.
Several members of the working group appeared on a panel to talk about the progress made in narrowing the racial divide in the Iowa courts and prison systems. Last November, they made recommendations in such areas as diversifying jury pools and improving mental health services for minorities. Des Moines state representative Ako Abdul-Samad says he hopes the group’s report is not just words on paper, but instead leads to action.
“We have to understand where we’re at today," he says. "We can’t walk away and smoke a cigarette and say, phew, we sounded good. We have to walk away saying, we’re going to do something, we’re going to make an impact.”
African-Americans make up just 3.2 percent of Iowa’s overall population. They represent 25 percent of the state’s prison inmates.