Preliminary Report on Race and Washington's Criminal Justice System
Robert S. Chang
Seattle University School of Law
November, 29 2011
Gonzaga Law Review, Forthcoming
Seattle University Law Review, Forthcoming
Washington Law Review, Forthcoming
Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 11-30
In this report, forthcoming in the law reviews of all three of Washington’s law schools (Gonzaga Law Review, Seattle University Law Review, and Washington Law Review), we present our findings on racial disproportionality in Washington’s criminal justice system. In 1980, of all states, Washington had the highest rate of disproportionate minority representation in its prisons. Today, minority racial and ethnic groups remain disproportionately represented in Washington State‘s court, prison, and jail populations, relative to their share of the state‘s general population. The fact of racial and ethnic disproportionality in our criminal justice system is indisputable. Following an assertion attributed to a justice on the Washington Supreme Court – that African Americans are overrepresented in the prison population because they commit a disproportionate number of crimes – a task force on race and the criminal justice system was convened. Its research working group focused on trying to answer why these disproportionalities exist. We examined differential commission rates, facially neutral policies, and bias as possible contributing causes. We reviewed research that focused on particular areas of Washington‘s criminal justice system, and our report concludes that much of the disproportionality is explained by facially neutral policies that have racially disparate effects. We also found that disproportionality also is explained in part by the prevalence of racial bias – whether explicit or implicit – and the influence of bias on decision-making within the criminal justice system.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 84
Keywords: criminal justice system, racial disproportionality, police practices, pretrial detention, sentencing, explicit bias, implicit bias
Date posted: November 29, 2011
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