The Impact of Implicit Racial Bias on the Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion

Abstract

The disproportionate incarceration of minorities is one of the American criminal justice system’s most established problems. In spite of a societal backdrop in which descriptive claims of a “post-racial” America prosper, the problematic racial dynamics of criminal justice persist. The numbers are stark and clear: one out of every twenty-nine black adult women and men are currently incarcerated compared with only one out of every 194 whites. But less clear are the causes of these disparities. For decades, scholars have struggled to understand why America prosecutes and incarcerates minorities at such massive rates. Perspectives on this troubling issue cover an incredibly wide range of themes, spanning from racist discussions of “biological differences” to thoughtful considerations of structural racism. A scientific revolution, however, has generated new interest with regard to how upstanding people—including judges, jurors, lawyers, and police—may discriminate without intending to do so. This implicit bias revolution has created new opportunities to empirically investigate how actors within the legal system can perpetuate discrimination in ways that have been—until now—almost impossible to detect. The topic of implicit racial bias in the legal system is extraordinarily broad, and scholars are beginning to consider how it might illuminate inequality across a range of legal domains. In the criminal law setting, in

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Smith2012TheIO, title={The Impact of Implicit Racial Bias on the Exercise of Prosecutorial Discretion}, author={Robert J. Smith and Justin D. Levinson}, year={2012} }