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An Unjust Burden: The Disparate  Treatment of Black Americans in the  Criminal Justice System

May 4, 2018

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 disproportionate rates of criminal justice contact and incarceration are making us safer. This brief presents an overview of the ways in which America's history of racism and oppression continues to manifest in the criminal justice system, and a summary of research demonstrating how the system perpetuates the disparate treatment of black people. The evidence presented here helps account for the hugely disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on millions of black people, their families, and their communities.

Crime and Justice

New Orleans: Who's in Jail and Why?

January 1, 2016

Everyone in New Orleans deserves to be safe. We rely on our criminal justice agencies—the police, the courts, and the jail—to ensure public safety, so we should ask ourselves regularly: how well is our system working? By looking at who we hold in our jail and why, we can begin to understand the role of detention in keeping our community safe and inform what our jail needs are, both now and going forward.Until recently, New Orleans led the nation in jail incarceration: before Katrina, we jailed people at a rate five times the national average. The consequences were dramatic for the tens of thousands of people booked into the jail each year who lost their jobs, homes, and even custody of their children. Instead of making us the safest city in America, this over-use of detention destabilized communities.How are we using detention today? Generally, people are held in jail for any number of reasons. Therefore, unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the question of "who is in our jail?" This report aims to advance an important public conversation about how we are using our jail and how it impacts safety in our city.

Crime and Justice

Young Men of Color and the Other Side of Harm: Addressing Disparities in our Responses to Violence

December 16, 2014

Attention is increasingly being paid to the disparities young men of color face in our society, including their disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system as those responsible for crime. Little recognition, however, is given to the fact that young men of color are also disproportionately victims of crime and violence. This issue brief aims to raise awareness of this large but often overlooked group of victims, and help foster efforts -- both local and nationwide -- to provide them with the compassionate support and services they need and deserve.

Boys and Men of Color; Crime and Justice

Race and Prosecution in Manhattan

July 1, 2014

This report summarizes a two-year study which analyzed more than 200,000 cases. It focuses 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.

Boys and Men of Color; Crime and Justice; Discrimination

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