April 8, 2012
"Race, Prediction & Discretion"
The title of this post is the title of this new paper by Professor Shima Baradaran, which is now available via SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Many scholars and political leaders denounce racism as the cause of disproportionate incarceration of black Americans. All players in this system have been blamed including the legislators who enact laws that disproportionately harm blacks, police who unevenly arrest blacks, prosecutors who overcharge blacks, and judges that fail to release and oversentence black Americans. Some scholars have blamed the police and judges who make arrest and release decisions based on predictions of whether defendants will commit future crimes. They claim that prediction leads to minorities being treated unfairly. Others complain that racism results from misused discretion. This article explores where racial bias enters the criminal justice system through an empirical analysis that considers the impact of discretion and prediction.
With a close look at the numbers and consideration of factors ignored by others, this article confirms some conventional wisdom but also makes several surprising findings. This article confirms what many commentators have suspected — that police arrest black defendants more often for drug crimes than white defendants. It also finds, contrary to popular belief, that there is little evidence to support the belief that drugs are linked to violent crime. Also, judges actually detain white defendants more than similarly-situated black defendants for all types of crimes. The important and surprising findings in this article challenge long-held conventions of race and help mitigate racial disparity in criminal justice.
April 8, 2012 at 09:32 PM | Permalink
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Hmmmm. I've always suspected that there's an "urban discount," which, given where minorities tend to commit crimes, has a disproportionate beneficial effect on minority defendants.
In bedroom communities, they tend not to mess around with criminals, no matter what their race is.
Posted by: federalist | Apr 8, 2012 10:18:07 PM