Finding a Black person in Boulder County, Colorado, is like seeing a solar eclipse or a double rainbow. But a recently released study found that finding a Black person caught up in the criminal justice system in the county is a lot more common.
The Denver Post reported on a six-year study conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent nonprofit on a mission to “end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty.” Researchers looked at nearly 60,000 criminal cases litigated by the Boulder County DA’s office between 2013 and 2019. And what they found was proof of what the few Blacks in Boulder always knew existed – clear evidence of racial discrimination. Results revealed that Blacks in the county are charged with crimes at a rate of five to six times that of white people. The study also found that homeless people in Boulder County, who make up less than one percent of the population, represented 10 percent of adult felony criminal cases between 2018 and 2019.
Although Blacks represented only one percent of Boulder County’s overall population in 2018 and 2019, they were five percent of the criminal defendants and seven percent of those sentenced to prison. “In short, we see that the disparities start at the beginning of the system and, in the most serious of sentences, ending in prison, the disparities actually increase,” said Seleeke Flingai, a senior research associate at the Vera Institute.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty says his office plans to use the results of the study to recognize instances of racism and find ways to make the justice system more equitable in the county. “I have always believed that as long as we have racism in the United States, we will continue to see racial inequities in the justice system,” he said. “That’s why we undertook this project. That is why we chose to do this. We are committed to identifying these areas where inequities flow from and rooting them out.”