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Study Finds Racial Bias in Cville Area Courts and Jail


Charlottesville and Albemarle have confirmed what critics have been saying for years. African-American men are treated differently in the local courts and regional jail than whites. 


African-American men make up 8.5% of Charlottesville’s population and less than 5% of those who live in Albemarle County – but more than half of the men booked at the regional jail from Charlottesville – 51% – and more than a third coming from the county are black. 

“That raised red flags for people to say, ‘Why is this happening? How should we address that?  The system doesn’t feel fair," says Kaki Dimock, director of the city’s department of human services.  It's not thatblack men commit more crimes than whites.

“There’s a recent study by the National Institutes of Health that shows that commission rates are the same across race except for very specific inner city drug crimes,” she says, but something is going wrong. “Whether it’s related to a specific human being who sort of has discretion at a decision-making point or whether it’s a system issue.”

In addition to a disproportionate rate of incarceration, consultant Reggie Smith says there’s evidence of unequal treatment once inside the justice system.

“You’re looking at seriousness of the crime that you’re charged with. We’re looking at how long you were sentenced – things of that nature,” he explains.

In the study period – 2014 to 2016, the city was making changes to help people released from jail adjust to life in the community, to increase diversity in law enforcement and improve training, to offer alternatives to incarceration and make police actions in the city and county more transparent.

“If you look at the recommendations you can see that we’ve got a head start on almost all of them," says Dimock. "But are they sufficient?  Are we doing the right things, and what should we do more or less of?”

Those are questions the city council and county board will likely address in the months to come, and if they can find the money, they will also commission a review of how police interact with African-Americans.   

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief