Race and Prosecution in Manhattan

07/08/2014
BESIKI KUTATELADZE • WHITNEY TYMAS • MARY CROWLEY

In order to ensure the integrity of the justice system, it is essential that case outcomes do not disproportionately affect members of certain racial and ethnic groups—and that any disparities be identified so solutions can be developed. To that end, Vera partnered with the District Attorney of New York on an NIJ-funded study examining racial and ethnic disparities in criminal case outcomes in Manhattan. The two-year study, which analyzed more than 200,000 cases, focused on the role of prosecutors during several points of a criminal case—case acceptance for prosecution, dismissals, pretrial detention, plea bargaining, and sentencing recommendations—and whether prosecutorial discretion contributes to racially and ethnically disparate outcomes. While the best predictors of case outcomes were factors that directly pertained to legal aspects of a case—including the seriousness of the charge, the defendant’s prior record, and the offense type—the research also found that race remained a factor in case outcomes.