Essay race and ethnicity in prosecution first edition

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PROSECUTION AND RACIAL JUSTICE PROGRAM

Do Race and Ethnicity Matter in Prosecution?
A Review of Empirical Studies
First Edition

Besiki Kutateladze
Vanessa Lynn
Edward Liang
Vera Institute of Justice
June 2012

© 2012 Vera Institute of Justice. All rights reserved.
Additional copies can be obtained from the Communications Department of the Vera Institute of
Justice, 233 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, New York, 10279, (212) 334-1300. An electronic version of this report is available for download on Vera’s website, www.vera.org.
Requests for additional information about the research described in this report should be directed to
Whitney Tymas, director of Vera’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Program, at wtymas@vera.org.

From the Program Director
Vera’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Program (PRJ) works in partnership with prosecutors to discover aspects of their decision making that result in unwarranted racial disparity, and to devise remedies that promote greater fairness and accountability. Our work focuses on improving prosecutorial practice and strengthening relationships between prosecutors and the communities they are sworn to serve.
No other actor in the criminal justice system drives case outcomes as profoundly as the prosecutor.
Nevertheless, empirical research analyzing racial impacts of prosecutors’ routine choices on the thousands of defendants and victims with whom they interact daily has been scarce. Furthermore, the small body of existing empirical research is written primarily for social scientists, rather than legal practitioners and lay audiences seeking to comprehend the aggregate effects of prosecutorial discretion on the racial compositions of our defendant, prison, and jail populations.
PRJ conducted this literature review to distill the current empirical research and provide a readily accessible reference guide. It is our hope that this document will serve as a resource for prosecutors, in particular, as they seek to understand the implications of routine policies and practices within their offices. As the reader will no doubt observe, the research raises as many questions as it resolves, emphasizing the need for additional study through collaborative initiatives such as PRJ.

Whitney Tymas
Director, Prosecution and Racial Justice Program
Vera Institute of Justice

Acknowledgments
This literature review was produced by the Vera Institute of Justice’s Prosecution and Racial Justice
Program. We would like to express our appreciation to the Ford Foundation and the Atlantic
Philanthropies for their generous support of this project. We would also like to thank Alice Chasan for providing editorial support and Melissa Cipollone for layout of this publication. This literature review would not have been possible without dozens of social scientists who researched the issues of race and prosecution despite difficulties of accessing relevant data, and we would like to thank them for their efforts. Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 1
Methodological Note .................................................................................................................. 1
Section One: A Review of Research Methodologies ............................................................................. 3
Discretion Points ....................................................................................................................... 3
Racial and Ethnic Categorizations ................................................................................................ 4
Section Two: A Review of Research Findings ..................................................................................... 7
Initial Screening ........................................................................................................................ 7
Pretrial Release and Bail Procedure…