- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

DENVER (AP) - Black people in Colorado were arrested or cited at a disproportionate rate last year and were more likely to be sentenced to prison than other racial groups, according to a first-of-its kind report examining race and the state’s criminal justice system.

Blacks accounted for 12.4 percent of arrests and summonses in 2015, though they represent just 4.2 percent of the state’s population, according to the report released Wednesday by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice.

Those arrests and citations were more often for serious crimes, such as homicide, assault and robbery.

Black adults were more likely to receive prison sentences than people of other races and had fewer opportunities for “deferred judgments” that would allow them to avoid a criminal history, the study said.

The report is the result of a new law requiring the state to analyze data from criminal justice agencies based on race, ethnicity and gender.

It looked at more than 325,000 arrests, summonses, court filings and parole board decisions.

Its release comes as public officials and police agencies grapple with how to collect and study information about people who enter the criminal justice system, in the aftermath of high-profile clashes between the public and officers around the nation.

The data collected over one year does not reveal the cause of the disparities, said lead author Kim English, research director for the Department of Public Safety. But it can be an important tool for decision-makers trying to improve the state’s criminal justice system, she said.

“I don’t think anybody who is in criminal justice is particularly surprised by the results of the study,” said Frederick Police Chief Gary Barbour, who heads the Colorado Chiefs of Police Association.

He said it would be premature to make major policy decisions based on the report but called it a good starting point for further study.

“It’s a societal problem, not just a criminal justice problem,” Barbour said.

Denise Maes, public policy director at the ACLU of Colorado, told The Denver Post (https://dpo.st/2hklXvq ) the findings confirm the suspicions of many in the community that blacks are disproportionately impacted by all aspects of the criminal justice system. She called the data “very sobering.”

The report also found:

- Black juveniles were more likely to be sentenced to youth corrections than their counterparts of other races.

- Whites and Asians were more likely to be released early by a parole board compared to blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.

- Women were more likely than men to receive deferred judgment instead of a jail sentence.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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