Race a Significant Factor at Almost Every Stage of Criminal Prosecutions in Manhattan

Race is a significant factor at nearly every stage of criminal prosecutions in Manhattan, from setting bail to negotiating a plea deal to sentencing. A 2-year study  conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice confirmed what has been common knowledge among African Americans. nationwide. The study of the Manhattan D.A’s office found that, in Manhattan, Black and Hispanic defendants are more likely to be held in jail before trial and more likely to be offered plea bargains that include a prison sentence than whites and Asians charged with the same crimes. But race was not the sole factor, the studys authors said. A number of legal considerations were found to be more important in predicting a defendants fate, among them the seriousness of the charge and the defendants arrest record.

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Race a Significant Factor in criminal prosecutions

Study Finds Race a Significant Factor in Criminal Prosecutions

The study grew out of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s campaign promise to determine whether race played a role in prosecutors’ decisions. Vance’s office gave the institute unfettered access to its books for 2010 and 2011. The confirmation of race bias in criminal prosecutions, when added to the persistent pattern of police abuse and reckless disregard for African American life, underscore what is an everyday reality for many African Americans, especially young men. The criminal justice system consistently violates the civil and human rights of African Americans. The institutionalized nature of these systemic racial atrocities committed against African Americans begs the question of what will it take for African Americans to achieve a just solution to this never ending dilemma and nightmare. Seymour W. James Jr., the attorney in chief at the Legal Aid Society, said the study “really confirms what we have been seeing for years” in bail hearings and sentencing…more here


This large-scale study, which examined 222,542 resolved prosecutions over a two year period is consistent with smaller studies in other cities across the country.