Race, Prediction, and Pretrial Detention

41 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2012 Last revised: 10 Jul 2012

See all articles by Frank McIntyre

Frank McIntyre


Shima Baradaran Baughman

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: July 1, 2011


We use a large, nationally representative and detailed database on criminal defendants to predict the likelihood that the defendant will commit a crime while on bail or other forms of pretrial release. We use this likelihood to estimate an empirical model of judicial behavior. We find that large and persistent gaps in pretrial detention across race is completely explainable as a form of statistical discrimination due to the higher probability a black defendant will commit a pretrial violent crime. The results are robust to a variety of possible statistical biases, including selection bias and misspecification of functional form. We also consider more nuanced models of discrimination and find evidence that judges may be more sensitive to violent crimes committed by white defendants than black defendants.

Keywords: race, pretrial detention, bail, judge behavior

JEL Classification: K4

Suggested Citation

McIntyre, Frank and Baughman, Shima Baradaran, Race, Prediction, and Pretrial Detention (July 1, 2011). 7th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1987071 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1987071

Frank McIntyre (Contact Author)

Amazon.com ( email )

Seattle, WA 98144
United States

Shima Baradaran Baughman

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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