The Supreme Court of Iowa established the Equality in the Courts Task Force on December 4, 1990. The task force held five public hearings throughout the state and received written comments from over 300 people. Additionally, the Task Force contracted the services of the research firm of Selzer Boddy, Inc. to conduct four major studies directed at judges, attorneys, court personnel, and the general public. The Task Force also designated a team of researchers to undertake a special retrospective study of criminal cases to determine the effect of race in the criminal justice process. The perceptions of the general public were elicited via a telephone survey of a cross section of 400 Iowans. Surveys were mailed to 2,114 attorneys across the state, 1600 court employees, and 351 judges. The response rate for the written surveys was high: 84% for judges, 54% for attorneys, and 43% for court employees.


In each case, there are unexplained differences which are not associated with any known factor but race.

The Task Force believes the uniform use of pretrial release guidelines would decrease the arbitrary or subjective nature of pretrial release decisions.

The Task Force has discovered that information is not easily retrievable throughout the state to permit study of possible race bias in the court system .... The benefit derived from the uniform collection of such information from all stages of the criminal process is significant.

The State should maintain a centralized data base that includes information on defendant race, victim race,...along with the range of legal and social variables included in the present study. This would allow periodic monitoring of charging and sentencing discrepancies along racial lines.

The Task Force believes that a collections system data base needs to be established on an ongoing basis to gather the facts necessary to initiate, at any time, an examination and analysis of disparate incarceration rates among adults and juveniles. Otherwise, it will be necessary to conduct expensive and time-consuming criminal case studies; such case studies cannot be done throughout the state efficiently or on an ongoing basis.


The results of the Criminal Case Study should be discussed at the annual judges conference. The present and future court system database should be monitored periodically, and patterns of racially associated disparities noted, publicly disseminated, and specifically brought to the attention of Districts where disparities occur.

County attorney offices should be required to keep records of the charges on initial arrest, the charges ultimately filed, the arrests they chose not to prosecute, the reasons they chose not to prosecute, and the race and gender of the alleged perpetrators.