Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County is a step closer to identifying possible racial inequities in the criminal justice system and bringing transparency to what some judges call a culture of secrecy among the court’s players, reportst the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Five research groups have submitted proposals to analyze the impact of race on every aspect of case processing from arrest to sentencing. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason has assembled a committee to help choose which firm is best qualified to slog through tens of thousands of court files, interview players at every level of the system, draw conclusions and recommend possible changes.
Mason pledged to commission the study in response to a Plain Dealer series highlighting disparities between white and black defendants charged with similar crimes. The newspaper examined hundreds of low-level felony drug cases from 2004 to 2007. The review found that white defendants were more likely to get a lower-level misdemeanor conviction than were black defendants charged with the same crime. Proposals to study the system came from the Justice Management Institute, the Urban Institute, the University of Cincinnati Center for Criminal Justice Research, the Vera Institute of Justice, and Cleveland State University’s College of Urban Affairs.