Fourth Judicial Circuit's State Attorney's Office studied for racial disparities in criminal cases

Disparities in justice system

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to race and decision making in the 4th Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney’s Office, a new 56-page study finds little indication of disparities when it comes to race and ethnicity.

Close to 89,000 cases between 2017 and 2018 were studied.

The study was funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

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However, there were some points of difference, the study found blacks were more likely to have their case dismissed than whites, which raises the question of wrongful arrests and witnesses coming forward with key information in the black community.

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"If we find what I think we might, a great reason for dismissal might be victim or witness cooperation then that's a problem, if true that we need to address in another mechanism, which may be a discussion with our law enforcement partners," State Attorney Melissa Nelson said. 
 
Besiki Kutateladze, a professor of criminology at FIU who helped with the study said higher dismissals means the system needs to work on finding as many dismissible cases as possible earlier.

“Can we predict those cases as early as possible, so these people are not having their cases pending.” Kutateladze said.

There was some racial disparities when it comes to blacks' use of diversion programs, diversion is used as an alternative to incarceration, which Nelson said is being addressed

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“We realized minority defendants are not afforded the same opportunity and that made us ask the question, 'Why?'” Nelson said.

Another interesting finding was Hispanics in the circuit were more likely to see a drug charge reduction.

Overall, the study found influence of race and ethnicity was minimal across almost every point of study. 
The study only looked at cases under Nelson's administration, it serves as a starting point to identify trends or problem areas in cases the office comes across.