According to a study of decisions made by the Denver District Attorney’s Office, white people facing felony criminal charges in Denver are more likely to be sent to drug treatment court or given a chance to have their cases deferred than Black or Hispanic people accused of similar crimes, reports the Denver Post. Researchers also found that charges against Black people were more likely to be dismissed than charges against White or Hispanic people. This might sound like an advantage, the report states, but it means that more Black people were facing charges for which prosecutors later found there was not enough evidence to support.
Stacey Bosick, the study’s author and interim associate vice president of academic programs and dean of undergraduate and graduate studies at Sonoma State University, and her team analyzed 5,817 felony cases filed between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, and interviewed 20 Denver prosecutors. The study looked at four types of prosecutorial decisions: dismissals, deferred judgments, plea agreements and referrals to drug court. Bosick made recommendations to address the inequities, including allowing prosecutors more time to review evidence before deciding whether to file a charge. All 20 prosecutors interviewed agreed that there was systemic racism in the criminal legal system but said they felt they had little power to change it on a case-by-case basis.