A Deeper Dive into Racial Disparities in Prosecutorial Outcomes
In April 2021, the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab released a report, Racial Disparities in Prosecutorial Outcomes, examining felony cases accepted for prosecution by the Denver District Attorney’s (DA) Office between July 2017 and June 2018. The study found that race and ethnicity were not associated with general plea offers extended. The study did find differences between white, Black, and Hispanic defendants across the other three points of prosecutorial discretion examined: dismissals, deferred judgments, and referrals to Drug Court. However, the study was not able to examine the reasons underlying or driving racial/ethnic differences at these points of prosecutorial discretion.
In November, the Lab worked with the Denver DA’s Office to complete a follow-up study to dig deeper into dismissals of filed cases and deferred judgments for defendants. The Lab was excited to be a part of this research-practitioner collaboration which helped identify opportunities for the Denver DA’s Office to continue to advance racial equity.
While the current study sheds further light on the reasons cases receive a dismissal or deferred judgment, many questions remain unanswered. As noted by District Attorney Beth McCann in a recent Denverite article about the report, “the DA’s Office hasn’t traditionally been the best collector of data.”
To support ongoing work in Denver and eight other judicial districts, the Colorado Lab is pleased to partner with the Prosecutorial Performance Indicators Project to develop internal and public-facing dashboards that will help inform understandings of issues such as racial disparities in decision-making. Learn more about our first cross-site learning meeting here.
Contact Dr. Lauren Gase to learn more about the follow-up report to Racial Disparities and Prosecutorial Outcomes for the Denver District Attorney’s Office.