Ending Mass IncarcerationReducing the Use of Jails

Promoting Racial Equity in Prosecution

Prosecutors have enormous discretion to influence the outcome of a criminal case and, as a result, the course of someone’s life. The role that prosecutors have and continue to play in fueling mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on minorities is receiving closer scrutiny nationally. 

For roughly a decade, beginning in 2005, district attorneys in Charlotte, Milwaukee, San Diego, Lincoln, Nebraska, and more recently Manhattan worked with us to take a step back and look at whether charging and plea decisions are influenced by race, leading black people, Latino people and other people from minority backgrounds to be punished more severely than white people for the same crimes. The method and lessons from these cities are captured in a detailed guide designed to help any district attorney’s office engage in the same type of self-reflection and reform. 

Related Work

An Unjust Burden

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The evidence for racial disparities in the criminal justice system is well documented. The disproportionate racial impact of certain laws and policies, as well as biased decision making by justice system actors, leads to higher rates of arrest and incarceration in low-income communities of color. However, there is no evidence that these widely disp...

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Until recently, New Orleans was the longtime nationwide leader in urban jail incarceration rate, which today remains at nearly double the national average. Although the population of the city’s jail has been declining since 2009, there is still much room for improvement, including addressing the considerable and persistent racial disparities in arr...

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