Perspective: “NAACP: Racial disparity in the Monroe County Jail is worse than ever”

The Monroe County Branch NAACP shared the following with the Bloomingtonian, and others Tuesday:

Edited version below and attached pdf:

Subject: Racial disparity in the Monroe County Jail is worse than ever.

From January 1, 2023, to March 31, 2023, Black people made up on average 26.5% of the inmates in the Monroe County jail. The US Census Bureau estimates the current Black population of Monroe County at 3.9%. Thus, Black people were over represented in the jail by 681%. Stated another way, we would expect seven or eight Black people to be in jail at any time. Instead, there have been over 50. (Calculations follow. They are based on data provided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department (below) and the U. S. Census Bureau.)

Black people’s over representation in the Monroe County jail is not new. But this is far above normal. The Monroe County NAACP has led studies for the last quarter century documenting overrepresentation of Black people in our jail. (2019-RaceAndCriminalJusticeReport-online.pdf ( Data compiled for five separate years from 1997 through 2017 showed an average disparity of 378%. This year’s rate is nearly twice that.

We note that the jail population is lower than it has been for the previous years studied. This has apparently only enhanced racial disparities. 

It is beyond the scope of this report to shed new light on the source of these disparities.  We do note that they are paralleled in virtually every aspect of American culture.  Countless studies show that factors such as poverty, limited availability of health care, inferior schools, and biases at every step of the crime enforcement system contribute to this outcome. 

Bloomington likes to think of itself as an oasis of racial harmony in southern Indiana. Racial disparity in our jail population is one more problem that proves this self-assessment wrong.

Monroe County is in the process of reckoning with the chronically unconstitutional and inhumane conditions to which we subject jail inmates. Such mistreatment falls disproportionately on the Black population and is therefore of particular concern to the NAACP. This adds even greater urgency to the need to achieve results based in rehabilitation, not punishment and warehousing. We have seen too much hand wringing and too little progress. 

The system must change, and this must be a very high priority now. The status quo is unacceptable, and the NAACP expects our elected officials to work with us – and all sincere and interested persons – to uncover the discretionary decision-making that has led us to this place. 

Choosing to continue current practices and make the same policy, financial, law-enforcement, prosecutorial, and judicial decisions will only continue to negatively impact the same marginalized populations. We implore you to examine each of your decisions, so we can do better now. We will encourage attention and light to be directed towards public decision making. We will hold ourselves and our public officials accountable because we are all responsible for change and we must work together.

We applaud the Monroe County Council for its effort to address our jail needs through widespread community discussion and input. We applaud the efforts of a broad coalition of volunteer community organizations that will make sure that the public is not ignored as we go forward. 

Our Monroe County officials, Commissioners, Council members, Prosecutor, Sheriff, Judges, and Bloomington’s Mayor, City Council and Police Chief, are dealing with problems they inherited from far longer than the 25 years of disparity that we have documented. We do not blame any individuals for the problems existence.

We do blame everybody if a solution is not reached, and implementation, begun in 2023.  

The Monroe County Branch of the NAACP

Maqubè Reese, President  

CC: Legal Redress Committee

William Morris, Chair

Guy Loftman, Member

Alphonso Manns, Member

Margie Rice, Member

Report contact:  Guy Loftman, [email protected]

Monroe County, Indiana racial disparity calculations

1-1-23 to 3-31-23

Data provided by Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and U. S. Census Bureau 

193.88 = Average total number of inmates

3.9%    = Most recent U. S. Census estimate of Black population of Monroe County

7.56     =  Expected average number of Blacks if no disparity exists = 3.9% * 193.88

51.47   = Actual average number of Black inmates per day

26.5     =  Average actual percentage of Blacks in jail per day = 51.47/193.88

681%   = Disparity from expected to actual average number of Blacks in jail =51.47/7.56

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