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November 10, 2019

"The Effect of Scaling Back Punishment on Racial Disparities in Criminal Case Outcomes"

The title of this post is the title of this recent research paper authored by John MacDonald and Steven Raphael that I just came across.  Here is its abstract:

Research Summary

In late 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47 that redefined a set of less serious felony drug and property offenses as misdemeanors.  We examine how racial disparities in criminal court dispositions in San Francisco change in the years before (2010-2014) and after (2015-2016) the passage of Proposition 47.  We decompose racial disparities in court dispositions into components due to racial differences in offense characteristics, involvement in the criminal justice system at the time of arrest, pretrial detention, criminal history, and the residual unexplained component.  Before and after Proposition 47 case characteristics explain nearly all of the observable race disparities in court dispositions. However, after the passage of Proposition 47 there is a narrowing of racial disparities in convictions and incarceration sentences that is driven by lesser weight placed on criminal history, active criminal justice status, and pretrial detention in effecting court dispositions.

Policy Implications

The findings from this study suggest that policy reforms that scale back the severity of punishment for criminal history and active criminal justice status for less serious felony offenses may help narrow racial inequalities in criminal court dispositions.  Efforts to reduce the impact of racial inequalities in mass incarceration in other states should consider reforms that reduce the weight that criminal history, pretrial detention, and active probation status has on criminal defendants’ eligibility for prison for less serious drug and property offenses.

November 10, 2019 at 10:43 AM | Permalink


Barnini Chakraborty of Fox News reports that cities like San Francisco now have organized crime rings brazenly stealing merchandise right out of stores and reselling it on the streets. The founder of San Francisco's Code Tenderloin, a homeless service provider, said that drug addicts, who are often homeless, are stealing and fencing the merchandise to feed their drug habit. Neither Mayor London Breed or anyone in the District Attorney's office responded to multiple calls for a statement about the problem, although San Francisco has the highest rate of property crime of the nation's 20 largest cities. The President of the California Retailers Association said that black market dealers are coming into the state to collect stolen merchandise because of the lack of consequences if caught.

Posted by: Prop Achielles | Nov 11, 2019 2:02:42 AM

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