Iowa Summit on Justice & Disparities Addresses Disproportionality within Iowa’s Criminal Justice System October 10, 2013 at Drake Olmsted Center

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Keynotes include Nathan McCall, Author of New York Times Bestselling book Makes Me Wanna Holler and Dr. Ashley Nellis, Senior Researcher for the Sentencing Project

The Iowa Summit on Justice & Disparities brings together national speakers, Iowa judicial officials, state government leaders, justice practitioners, advocacy organizations, law enforcement representatives, and community members for a historic information–packed conference. The all-day event takes place at the Drake University Olmsted Center at 2875 University Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa from 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM and includes breakfast, lunch and amenities. Registration is $99. Visit for full details.

The Iowa Summit on Justice & Disparities serves as a vehicle to connect stakeholders with resources in an effort to work together for significant reduction in the startling rates of minority representation in the criminal justice system in Iowa.

According to the US Census bureau, African Americans in Iowa are only 3.2% of the population, yet they are 26% of the prison population. That means that per capita, Iowa ranks at the very top in disproportionality. African Americans are 13 times more likely than their Caucasian counterparts to be caught up in the justice system.

“Iowa is largely a great place to live and that is often well publicized. We are always proud when a publication lists Iowa as number one for the best place to live, the best place to start a business, or the best place to raise a family, etc.,” says Betty C. Andrews, who is leading the committee hosting the summit. “But it is difficult to hear that Iowa leads the nation in incarcerating blacks and has done so for a long, long time.” For over a decade, Iowa has ranked number one in the nation for the number of African Americans per capita in the criminal justice system. Other minority groups are also critically disproportionately represented.

Topics like mandatory sentencing, racial profiling, the school to prison pipeline, family and social environments, and advocating with respect to victims will all be addressed at the one-day conference. The schedule includes workshops, power panels, a breakfast plenary, a luncheon, resources and exhibitors.

The summit will be keynoted by Nathan McCall. McCall is the author of Makes Me Wanna Holler, A Young Black Man in America, which looks back on his journey from troubled youth, to prison and, later, to professional journalist at The Washington Post. Now a senior lecturer in the African American Studies Department at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Nathan McCall’s other acclaimed books include What's Going On, a series of essays about race relations in America and Them, a novel about gentrification that reigned on the Essence bestseller list.

Dr. Ashely Nellis, Senior Researcher for the Sentencing Project, a Washington D.C. based nonprofit that is a leading voice in sentencing reform, will kick off the event. Her breakfast keynote explores the nation’s difficult relationship with race and ethnic disparity as it pertains to the criminal justice system. The presentation will include a review and analysis of the latest data as offering suggestions for moving toward a more fair and equitable system of justice.    

Workshop presenters, panelists, and organization joining in the collective exchange include: The African American Leadership Forum, Iowa Department of Corrections, Spectrum Resources, Drake University Law School, ACLU, NAACP, Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), The Iowa Division of Criminal and Juvenile Justice Planning (CJJP), Iowa Department of Corrections, law enforcement representatives, AMOS, and Iowa judicial officials.

Also on schedule is a morning press conference featuring the keynotes and collaborating organizations to share current information on disproportionality with the public as well as the measures being taken to reduce it.

Andrews also directs Iowa’s African American Festival, I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa and works with several organizations on criminal justice issues including facilitating the Iowa NAACP’s quarterly meetings with Governor Terry Branstad and with Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady. She acknowledges that this conference tackles a difficult subject matter. “Iowa’s uppermost ranking is mind boggling. There are plenty of other states I thought would have been on top,” she laments. “We have to deal with this from within the criminal justice system and from within the community. No one has all the answers but that’s why the summit is so critical. Judicial officials, political change makers, advocates and individual Iowans all in one space addressing this multifaceted issue. Improving these indicators around people of color, ripples into a better Iowa for all.”

Event sponsors include the following:

  •     Betty Andrews Media
  •     Keynote speakers funded by: WATSON POWEL, JR. FUND administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.
  •     Des Moines Branch NAACP
  •     African American Leadership Forum, an initiative of the Directors Council
  •     Iowa Department of Human Rights: Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans & Iowa Disproportionate Minority Contact Subcommittee,
  •     Spectrum Resources with Support from the US Department of Labor
  •     iSupply

Registration for the summit is now open at Booth space for the conference is also available. For more information please visit the website or contact Betty Andrews Media at 515.288.7171 or info(at)BettyAndrewsMedia(dot)com

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