Examining Racial Disparities in Criminal Case Outcomes among Indigent Defendants in San Francisco

by Emily Owens; Erin M. Kerrison; Bernardo Santos Da Silveria

Oct 12, 2017

We reviewed 10,753 complete case records, consisting of cases between 2011 and 2014, from the San Francisco Public Defender's Office. These data were stored in the Public Defender's GIDEON case management system, which draws from data maintained by the San Francisco County Superior Court's larger case management system database. Unlike previous studies that rely solely on arrest and conviction data, these records cover the entire pretrial process, providing a richer portrait of the experiences of defendants in the criminal justice system. These data can help policymakers and stakeholders understand whether racial disparities exist in the outcomes of San Francisco criminal cases, including cases resolved by plea bargains , and how bargaining affects disparities in other areas of the criminal justice system, such as corrections. Where disparities were seen, we sought to understand them and to evaluate what changes could be made to ensure that similarly situate d individuals receive equal and race - neutral treatment in the criminal justice system. Such information could assist the Public Defender, the San Francisco District Attorney, the San Francisco Police Department, and other criminal justice stakeholders to ensure equitable treatment of all San Franciscans.

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