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Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: A Manual for Practitioners and Policymakers

NCJ Number
Dennis Schrantz; Jerry McElroy
Jenni Gainsborough, Marc Mauer
Date Published
83 pages
This manual focuses on the ways in which racial disparities in the criminal justice system may result from decision making at various points in the process; it also outlines the steps criminal justice agencies can take to counter those effects.
"Racial disparity" is defined as existing in the criminal justice system when "the proportion of a racial/ethnic group within the control of the system is greater than the proportion of such groups in the general population." Illegitimate or unwarranted racial disparity results from differential treatment by the criminal justice system of similarly situated people based on race. In some instances this may involve overt racial bias, and in others it may reflect the influence of factors that are only indirectly associated with race. In discussing the causes of racial disparity in the justice system, this manual addresses higher crime rates, inequitable access to resources, legislation that disproportionately affects minorities, and overt bias. A discussion of manifestations of racial disparity at key decision points in the justice system targets the following stages of processing: police action; arraignment, release, and preadjudicatory decisions; adjudication and sentencing; probation and community supervision; jail and prison custody; and parole decisions. Another section of the manual provides a framework for research that will enable a jurisdiction to determine the degree to which racial disparity exists in its criminal justice processing. Finally, options are described for reducing racial disparity in the following criminal justice operations: law enforcement, pretrial procedures, prosecution, defense, judiciary, probation, jails and prisons, parole, and in systemwide and legislative decisions. A 17-item bibliography