Report: Boost resources to examine racial bias allegations

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A new report from an advisory panel formed by the Legislature recommends that lawmakers boost resources at the Vermont Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Rates of incarceration among black people in Vermont are among the highest in the country, Vermont Public Radio reported. The Legislature formed the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel to look into the issue.

The panel’s report says racial bias in the criminal justice system may be the reason for the disparity. The panel wants lawmakers to make the Human Rights Commission a “central clearinghouse” for bias-related complaints.

“They do this in a lot of other areas in state government,“said Etan Nasreddin-Longo, chairman of the 13-member panel. “They do it around accommodation and such. People call them when they’re talking about, you know, ‘I feel like I’ve been discriminated against around housing.’”

The panel wants legislators to assign a dedicated agency to investigate allegations of bias and says if the Human Rights Commission is that agency, it needs additional staff to “prioritize race-related bias complaints from across state government and resolve them in a timely manner.”

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