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Sentencing scorecards: Reducing racial disparities in prison sentences at their source
Criminology & Public Policy  (IF4.333),  Pub Date : 2020-10-15, DOI: 10.1111/1745-9133.12529
Greg Ridgeway, Ruth A. Moyer, Shawn D. Bushway

Scorecards have become an increasingly common tool for public policy decision making about important issues in education, finance, and health care. Few scorecards have been applied in criminal justice and none has been developed to highlight racial disparities in incarceration. We constructed county‐level scorecards for racial disparities in incarceration rates for the New York State Permanent Commission on Sentencing. Using detailed data on felony cases in New York State between 2000 and 2014, including the specific penal law criminal offense, features of the underlying charges, and criminal history, we assembled a set of White defendants within each county that collectively resembled Black and Hispanic defendants in that county. Statewide, Black defendants were more likely to receive prison sentences than similar White defendants (43% vs. 40%). Some individual counties had much greater racial disparities with relative risks of prison as high as 1.36. We found similar results for Hispanic defendants.