In Illinois, black people who are charged with crimes are likelier to be convicted of the charges that carry jail time and to receive harsher punishments than those who are white. While the disparate treatment of suspects by law enforcement officers has long been studied, a new study analyzed the treatment of defendants by prosecutors and the courts, finding that the disparate treatment continues within the court system.
A researcher at the Loyola Law School reviewed data from 30,807 Wisconsin cases in which the defendants were charged with misdemeanors over a period of seven years. He found that black defendants were 74 times less likely than their white peers to have charges that carried the potential of jail time reduced or dropped. Black people who had no prior criminal convictions were also much less likely than whites to have their charges reduced.
The researcher states that the study indicates that prosecutors use race when they are trying to figure out what offers to make to defendants. They make offers based on their assessments of the defendants’ likelihood to recidivate, which would mean that the prosecutors view black defendants as being more likely to commit new crimes in the future.
People who are charged with crimes might want to seek the help of experienced criminal defense lawyers. The attorneys might work to gather evidence of the types of pleas that have been given to white defendants and black defendants in their jurisdictions and use that data to make arguments for better offers for their black clients. They may also file motions with the courts to challenge the admissibility of evidence when the stops, searches and seizures were conducted in an unconstitutional manner.