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Study finds judges less likely to offer bail to black defendants

It is the goal of the criminal justice system to look at the facts of a case and distribute just and fair verdicts and punishments. It is an unfortunate reality that there are times when circumstances are not always fair, however.

A new study which will be printed in The Quarterly Journal of Economics has found that bail judges are less likely to offer bail to black defendants. This finding comes after examining data from over 160,000 cases in Philadelphia and Miami which took place over an 8-year period.

Not everyone has access to bail

The Journalist's Resource has reported that black defendants are just over 2 percent more likely to be denied bail and required to be incarcerated while they await their hearing. The study also found that when bail is allowed to black defendants, it is, on average, over $7,000 higher than bail for white defendants.

"We find suggestive evidence that this racial bias is driven by bail judges relying on inaccurate stereotypes that exaggerate the relative danger of releasing black defendants," write David Arnold, Will Dobbie and Crystal S. Yang, authors of the paper.

Racial bias on the part of bail judges

The study found that the race of the judges themselves did not play a factor in judgments. Black and white judges were equally as likely to show racial bias against black defendants. The deciding factor in racial bias among judges appeared to be their amount of experience. Judges with over 9 years of experience showed less bias over their "inexperienced" counter parts who had only been working for 2.5 or fewer years.

Not all judges will show a bias based on race. It is important to remember that the goal of the legal system is to look at the facts, first and foremost. This is why it is absolutely critical to enlist the legal representation of a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately if you are arrested. Good legal representation will fight for your rights in court. They will do their best to shield you from less-than-fair treatment and biases.

Looking forward, the researchers suggested that if inexperience is what is causing racial bias, then providing judges with proper data could make a difference. Being able to look at facts, rather than relying on intuition, could reduce the bias gap.

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