Report finds black adults in San Francisco face disparities in criminal justice system

FILE - This Jan. 15, 2015, file photo shows a view of the jury box, right, inside Courtroom 201, where jury selection in the trial of Aurora movie theater shootings defendant James Holmes was set to begin at the Arapahoe County District Court in Centennial, Colo. Three jurors in the Colorado theater shooting trial were dismissed Tuesday, June 9, 2015, amid concern they had been exposed to media coverage of the case and were discussing it among themselves. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, Pool, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — In comparison to their white counterparts, black adults in San Francisco are much more likely to be arrested, booked into county jail and convicted, according to a racial and ethnic disparities report released Tuesday by the San Francisco Reentry Council.

The report, which looked at data from 2013, confirmed not only racial profiling on city streets but unequal treatment in the court system as well, according to San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who co-chairs
the Reentry Council.

Adachi said in a statement that the report, prepared by the Oakland-based non-profit W. Haywood Burns Institute, “shows that San Francisco lags behind the rest of the state in closing the equality gap in
its justice system.”

The data collected shows harsher treatment of blacks during virtually every step of the criminal justice system in San Francisco, Adachi said. According to the report, black people are 7.1 times more likely to be arrested, 11 times more likely to be booked into county jail and 10.3 times more likely to be convicted than white people in San Francisco.

Among the most drastic findings in the report were the disparities in the pretrial release program, which found that while black adults were more likely to meet the criteria for pretrial release, they were less likely than white adults to be granted pretrial release by judges.

“People in jail are more likely to plead guilty just to get out, even if they’re innocent. Being allowed pretrial release means being able to hold onto your job, your housing — even your children,” Adachi said.

The report states that while more white adults are convicted for DUI charges than black adults, black adults are more likely to have longer jail sentences than their white counterparts.

The study’s authors recommended that police keep accurate ethnic and racial data, since years of poor data collection by San Francisco police counted the majority of Hispanics as white, likely portraying an inflated rate of justice system involvement for whites.

The authors also recommended developing a system to monitor the disparities on a quarterly basis and making the reports publicly available, discussing them regularly at meetings and using them to shape policies and practices that can reduce the inequities.

The report’s researchers concluded, “The prevalence of these disparities undermines any notion of ‘justice’ in our criminal justice system.”

The report’s findings come as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday considers a resolution that would expand the Police Department’s funding and staffing levels to account for population and neighborhood growths in the city.

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