Bill On Prison Racial Disparity Clears Vt. House

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A bill calling for a study of the disproportionate number of African-Americans in Vermont’s prisons has passed the House and is headed for the Senate.

Backers of the measure, which passed on a 132-7 roll call vote Wednesday, say the study will focus on whether African American defendants are sentenced more harshly by Vermont judges.

Previous studies have looked at possible disparities in traffic stops and vehicle searches by police.

Backers of the bill say Vermont needs to figure out why African-Americans make up 1 percent of the state’s overall population, but 10 percent of its prison inmates.

Critics of the measure passed yesterday said the issue has been studied enough.

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