Race, Prediction, and Pretrial Detention
30 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2013
Date Written: December 2013
This article uses the nationally representative State Court Processing Statistics on felony defendants to analyze how judges decide if defendants should be held pretrial. We find a large (11 percentage points) racial gap in hold rates within a county. Judicial decisions are significantly influenced by the probability that the defendant will be rearrested pretrial for a violent felony. Controlling for this probability causes the racial gap in hold rates to disappear. Bail amounts follow the same pattern. The most plausible sources of bias - mismeasurement of the control probabilities or selection bias - likely either do not matter or cause an upward bias.
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