DENVER – The first-ever report looking into racial and gender data within Colorado’s criminal justice system shows black men and women are disproportionately arrested and are more likely to be sentenced to prison than any other racial or ethnic group.
The study, released late Wednesday by the Division of Criminal Justice, a part of the state Department of Public Safety, came as a result of a 2015 bill passed by the state Legislature called the Community Law Enforcement Action Reporting Act (CLEAR Act).
The bill requires the Division of Criminal Justice to each year review and analyze data from statewide law enforcement, the Judicial Department and the state Parole Board on how people of different ethnicities and genders are treated by the justice system.
Wednesday’s report looked at 2015 and is available online here.
The state says more than 325,000 arrests, summonses, court filings and parole hearings were analyzed for the report.
The most eye-popping data shows that people who identify as African-American or black accounted for 12.4 percent of arrests and summonses despite being just 4.2 percent of the state’s population. It says they were more frequently arrested for “serious offenses” like assault and homicide, and had the fewest early parole releases among racial and ethnic groups.
The report also shows that black men and women were more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to be sentenced to prison or the Division of Youth Corrections and were less likely to get a deferred judgment from a court.
Women were more likely to receive a deferred judgment as opposed to a jail sentence than men, according to the report, and white and Asian men and women were more likely to be released early on parole than black, Hispanic and Native American people.
The state points out that some discrepancies may exist in the report, as some cases span several years, and because while local law enforcement agencies and parole boards define people by their ethnicity, the Judicial Department classifies people by their race – meaning, for instance, that “many” Hispanics are classified as being white in court data, per the report.
The research director for the Department of Public Safety, Kim English, noted that the data does not answer why the disparities occur, but that it should be used “as a tool” for state lawmakers and other organizers.