How Race Skews Prosecutions - NYTimes.com: In the legal stratosphere where Supreme Court justices sit, racism may appear to be largely a thing of the past. But down on the ground, where citizens and law enforcement encounter each other daily, race still matters. That is the key finding of an extensive report issued last week on the prosecutorial practices of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, one of the biggest and busiest in the country.
The two-year study, conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice at the request of Cyrus Vance Jr., who took over as district attorney in 2010, found a pattern of racial disparities at multiple stages of the criminal justice process.
Even after controlling for factors like the seriousness of the charges and a defendant’s criminal history, blacks and Latinos were more likely than whites to be denied bail and more likely to be offered a harsher plea deal involving time behind bars. Blacks were also slightly more likely to be sentenced to prison than whites. When the charge was a misdemeanor drug offense, black defendants were 27 percent more likely than whites to get a plea offer that included incarceration.