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Prosecution and Racial Justice in New York County - Technical Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2014
283 pages

This study analyzed cases processed by the New York County District Attorney's Office (DANY) between 2010 and 2011, in order to determine the influence of defendants' race and ethnicity on case acceptance for prosecution; detention status; plea offers to a lesser charge and custodial punishment offers; case dismissals; sentencing; and charge dynamics, as well as other factors influencing prosecutorial decisionmaking.


The study found that the DANY prosecutes nearly all cases brought by the police with no marked racial or ethnic differences at case screening. For subsequent decisions in case processing, disparities varied by discretionary point and offense category. For all offenses combined, Black and Latino defendants were more likely to be detained than similarly situated White defendants. Blacks and Latinos were also more likely than White defendants to receive a custodial plea offer and to be incarcerated; however, they were more likely than White defendants to have their cases dismissed. Blacks and Latinos were more likely to be held in pretrial detention for misdemeanor person offenses, followed by misdemeanor drug offenses. On the other hand, Blacks and Latinos were also more likely to have their cases dismissed for misdemeanor drug offenses. Disparities in custodial sentence offers as part of the plea bargaining process and ultimate sentences imposed were most pronounced for drug offenses. In these cases, Blacks and Latinos received especially punitive outcomes. Asian defendants apparently had the most favorable outcomes across all discretionary decision points. The research methodology consisted of an evaluation and analysis of existing administrative data, interviews with prosecutors in order to better understand case processing and data limitations, and the collection of data from a sample of 2,409 case files. Preliminary implications are drawn from these findings, and ongoing research is recommended. 69 tables, 43 figures, 93 references, and appended prosecutor interview instrument and counts and charges across felony and misdemeanor cases

Date Published: January 1, 2014