San Francisco

Racial Bias Persists in San Francisco's Criminal Justice System: Study

Racial disparities continue to persist in San Francisco's criminal justice system, according to a study reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

The study, which was commissioned by the San Francisco Public Defender's Office and conducted by the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, found that minority populations, especially blacks, are booked on more severe charges, more likely to be convicted of felonies and spend more time behind bars compared to white offenders.

The racial disparity is rooted in the arresting and booking processes as opposed to the court system, according to the study. That point was highlighted by the finding claiming that blacks endure 50 percent more severe charges compared to whites at the time of booking.

Those charges go on to impact minority populations during the court process, according to the study. A black defendant usually spends 90 days winding his or her way through the courts. That number drops to 77.5 days for white defendants. Moreover, the average time a black arrestee spends behind bars is 30 days. That amount of time is 62 percent longer than the average time for whites. For felonies, black defendants are 60 percent more likely to be convicted than whites.

The study's findings have been challenged by the city's police department.

"Our officers charge individuals based on the elements of the crime(s) present," a statement from the department read. "The standard for an arrest is based upon probably cause. Whether a case moves forward or not depends on the District Attorney's Office ability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

Moving forward, continued discussions need to be orchestrated in order to fix the issues spotlighted in the study, according to San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

"Law enforcement is now training officers on implicit bias," Adachi said. "But we have to look at the actual decisions that are being made. How are officers making decisions as to which crimes to charge, and if they’re inflating charges against a particular ethnic group, why is that happening?"

More than 10,000 cases between 2011 and 2014 were examined during the study.

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