Sixty-six percent of states that elect prosecutors have no blacks in those offices, says a study reported by the New York Times. About 95 percent of the 2,437 elected state and local prosecutors across the U.S. in 2014 were white, and 79 percent were white men, said the study by the San-Francisco-based Women Donors Network. White men make up 31 percent of the U.S. population. While the racial makeup of police forces has been documented, the diversity of prosecutors, who many experts say exercise more influence over the legal system, has had little scrutiny. Prosecutors decide in most cases whether to bring charges. Because most criminal cases end in plea bargains, they have a direct hand in deciding how long defendants spend behind bars. “What this shows us is that, in the context of a growing crisis that we all recognize in criminal justice in this country, we have a system where incredible power and discretion is concentrated in the hands of one demographic group,” said Brenda Choresi Carter of the Women Donors Network.
“I think most people know that we've had a significant problem with lack of diversity in decision-making roles in the criminal justice system for a long time,” said Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, which offers legal representation for poor defendants and prisoners. “I think what these numbers dramatize is that the reality is much worse than most people imagine and that we are making almost no progress.” The data were compiled by the Center for Technology an Civic Life, a nonpartisan group. The Women Donors Network is composed of about 200 female philanthropists. Researchers looked at all elected city, county and judicial district prosecutors, as well as state attorneys general, in office as of last summer. The study found that 15 states had exclusively white elected prosecutors: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. In Kentucky and Missouri, which also has more than 100 elected prosecutors, all but one was white.