ABA Journal, "Project aimed at eliminating prosecutor race bias shows promising results"

Contact:

Robin Campbell
(212) 376-3172
rcampbell@vera.org

Center(s)

Topic(s)

Expert(s)


Mar 9 2010

The Milwaukee County district attorney John Chisholm spoke about racial bias in the decision making of prosecutors at a congressional hearing on Monday. Vera's Prosecution and Racial Justice Program has been working with the DA's office since 2005 to help staff identify evidence of possible racial or ethnic bias in their aggregate decision making and respond appropriately when it is found.

"An analysis of cases in Milwaukee showed that junior prosecutors were filing drug paraphernalia charges against 73 percent of nonwhites versus 59 percent of whites, the Crime Report said. But within a few months the office changing its practice to stress diversion to treatment rather than filing charges in many cases, the racial disparity in filing charges had disappeared.

'The last time we checked, they only prosecuted 10 of those cases, period, and there was no disparity,' Wayne McKenzie, director of the program, told the ABA Journal. 'Not only did the process get rid of the disparities, but the process of looking at those cases and seeing there was a more appropriate way to handle them regardless of race. There's a double story to that.'"