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Black defendants face bias from black and white bail judges

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Posted on July 23, 2018

According to a new study, bail judges in Illinois and across the U.S. discriminate against black defendants. The bias occurs whether the judges are black or white.

For the study, which will be published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Harvard Law School researchers analyzed 162,836 cases involving 93,914 defendants in Philadelphia County between 2010 and 2014. They also examined 93,417 cases involving 65,944 defendants in Miami-Dade County from 2006 to 2014. They found that bail judges were 2.4 percent more likely to detain black defendants while they await court hearings than white defendants. The study also found that the average bail set for black defendants was nearly $7,300 higher than for white defendants. According to the authors of the study, the findings indicate that judges use racial stereotypes to evaluate whether a defendant is likely to commit more crimes while out on bail.

The study also found that bail judges in Miami-Dade showed more racial bias than judges in Philadelphia. Part-time and inexperienced bail judges were more likely to show bias against black defendants. According to the authors of the study, racial bias could be reduced by providing judges with more training and feedback. They also said data-based risk assessments could help judges reduce incidents of bias.

Illinois defendants might fare better during court proceedings if they are represented by a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may work to protect a defendant’s rights during all hearings and plead a defendant’s case before a judge. The attorney’s efforts might help the defendant gain release while awaiting hearings.

Source: Journalists’ Resource, “Black and white bail judges show bias against black defendants,” Denise-Marie Ordway, July 16, 2018