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Assessing the Effectiveness of Interventions Designed to Reduce Racial/Ethnic Disparities in the Justice System: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $796,008)

The objectives of this project are to: (1) conduct a comprehensive review of research focusing on racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system, (2) identify interventions that have the potential to reduce disparate treatment, and (3) identify policies and practices that have exacerbated disparities. To achieve Objective 1, the research team will identify, synthesize, and summarize empirical research on racial and ethnic disparities at all stages of the criminal justice system. This plan will include police decisions to arrest, to stop-and-frisk or stop-and-search, and to use force (including excessive and deadly force); pretrial decisions regarding bail, detention, and diversion; prosecutors' charging and plea bargaining decisions; jury selection outcomes, including use of peremptory challenges; judges' sentencing decisions in capital and noncapital cases and probation revocation decisions; juvenile justice outcomes, including intake, detention, adjudication, and placement, as well as decisions to waive or transfer juveniles to adult criminal court; and correctional officials' decisions to grant or revoke parole. The research team will identify structural and contextual conditions that are most likely to result in disparate treatment. In addition, they will broaden their focus beyond research that examines outcomes for white Americans and Black Americans to include research that compares outcomes for Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans. Using an intersectional approach, the research team will also assess whether the effects of race and ethnicity are conditioned by the sex, age, and (where available) social class of the defendant/offender; the race or ethnicity of the victim; or the racial combination of the offender/victim dyad. For Objective 2, the research team will conduct a comprehensive review of research evaluating the efficacy of interventions targeting disparities across the criminal justice system, including police, courts, corrections, and juvenile justice. To achieve Objective 3, the research team will identify policy interventions that have created or exacerbated racial and ethnic disparities in criminal justice outcomes. They note that as important as it is to highlight interventions that have the potential to reduce racial and ethnic disparities, it is equally important to identify (seemingly) race neutral policies and practices that have either created or exacerbated disparate treatment and outcomes. To address the above objectives, the research team will conduct a series of separate comprehensive systematic reviews and meta-analyses in the areas of policing, juvenile justice, criminal courts and sentencing, corrections, and capital punishment. Each of these separate reviews will be led by a project team member with established expertise in that area, along with the project team member who has expertise in systematic reviews. The research team aims to complete a review of one major justice area each year and have an advisory board comprised of individuals from community agencies that advocate for fairness in the criminal justice system to review the methods and findings for each of those documents. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 8, 2022