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The Promise of Racial Impact Statements

Cover Image: Street mural artwork of young person looking up. Title beneath the Image: The Promise of Racial Impact Statements: Finding from a case study of minority impact statements in Iowa.In 2019, NJJN's Racial Justice Working Group, began exploring racial impact statements as a potential advocacy tool in ending racial disparities. Partnering with the Community Empowerment Law Project of the University of Iowa College of Law (CELP) on a case study of Iowa's implementation of minority impact statements, we endeavored to learn about:

  • The effort to pass the minority impact legislation,
  • The methodology of creating minority impact statements,
  • How the effort to implement the statements has been sustained over the years, and
  • Whether Iowa’s minority impact statement requirement led to reductions in racial disparities over the last decade.
In the new report, "The Promise of Racial Impact Statements: Findings from a case study of minority impact statements in Iowa," we offer a first step to unpacking the efficacy of racial impact statements for dismantling racial disparities and their usefulness as a tool for youth justice policy.

Key Takeaways:
  1. To fully inform legislators and the electorate on the effect of legislation, it is imperative that minority/racial impact statements are available to all stakeholders as early in the legislative process as possible, and preferably before lobbyists, advocates, and constituents must express support for or opposition to a bill.
  2. To actualize their promise, minority/racial impact statements should consistently provide a thorough and comprehensive analysis of the impact of justice system legislation using a standardized process and methodology. A generic and brief analysis is insufficient to guide legislative decision making.
  3. Minority/Racial impact statements are meant to inform legislators of the effects of bills on communities of color or other marginalized communities so that they can take steps to avoid increasing disparities. In order to enhance their effectiveness, legislation should prohibit the passage of bills with a negative impact statement - one that indicates a bill will increase racial, ethnic, gender, or disability disparities.
In subsequent convenings, we hope to delve deeper into the reasons why advocates may or may not choose to push for the use of racial impact statements in their states, and what that could mean for the future of youth justice more specifically.