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Report: Racial disparities in drug charges, incarcerations

November 19, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — New analysis shows racial disparities in drug charges and incarcerations in Vermont, with Black people over 14 times more likely to be defendants in a felony drug case than white people each year from 2014 to 2019, according to data collected by the Council of State Governments.

Black people are also six times more likely to be incarcerated in Vermont than white people, the data shows.

“For anyone committed to advancing racial justice in their communities, these findings are critically important and should be acted on immediately,” Falko Schilling, of the ACLU of Vermont, said in a written statement Thursday. “They show that extreme racial disparities in Vermont state prosecutions and sentencing decisions are real, and can’t be attributed to racist tropes about ‘out-of-state drug dealers’ when they are, in fact, the result of systemic racism in state prosecutors’ offices and courthouses.”

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The report was presented to the Vermont Justice Reinvestment II Working Group on Wednesday. The group was established in July 2019 by Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

The report includes recommendations, such as bringing more consistency in charging and plea-bargaining decisions in state’s attorneys’ offices, addressing disparities in diversion and pretrial services, and reclassifying low-to-mid level felony drug possessions to misdemeanors.

“It doesn’t just allow us to identify problems, it also means we also have to develop targeted data-driven policy decisions,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County, a member of the working group.