at the request of manhattan district attorney cyrus r. vance, jr., the vera institute of justice partnered on a two-year national institute of justice study on the relationship between prosecutorial decision-making and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
analyzing 222,542 cases resolved in 2010-2011, the 251-page report reveals blacks and latinos were at a disadvantage relative to whites in three key stages of criminal cases (pretrial detention, plea bargaining and incarceration sentence), but not in two (case acceptance and case dismissal). in fact, whites were less likely than blacks and latinos to have their cases dismissed.
authors nancy r. andiloro and besiki luka said, "this finding raises the question of whether having higher dismissal rates for defendants of color should be viewed as an indicator of leniency, or simply serve as a mechanism for declining to prosecute cases that could have been rejected at screening."
the starkest disparities were found in the prosecution of misdemeanor drug offenses. blacks were 27% more likely and latinos were 18% more likely to receive a custodial sentence offer than similarly situated white defendants. surprisingly, prior arrest record was more influential on sentence offers than prior sentence history, in accordance with this office's plea guidelines.
both authors recommend revising these guidelines. they said if the current guidelines were "based on poor sentences - as opposed to prior arrest - much of the difference between black and white, and latino and white defendants would have disappeared, at least in misdemeanor cases."
the new york times reports the study prompted the manhattan district attorney to request implicit bias training for his assistant prosecutors. the times' editorial board commends vance for inviting this analysis of his office. echoing the vera authors, they urge him to "reduce prosecutors' emphasis on prior arrests and work with his staff to accept fewer cases in the first place."
in brooklyn, the district attorney's office will stop prosecuting low-level marijuana cases, in an attempt to improve the administration of justice and put the office's resources to better use. district attorney kenneth p. thompson said - in a confidential memo - the policy was set up to keep nonviolent people, "and especially young people of color," out of the criminal justice system.
possession of marijuana is still illegal in the state, and brooklyn is the only borough to issue this policy. those arrested in brooklyn will undergo a case-by-case review and only those with no, or minimal criminal records, will qualify under the policy.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.