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Bail decisions and racial bias in the courtroom

In Texas and across the country, black defendants may be at a disadvantage when seeking bail in criminal cases, especially if the results of a recent study can be generalized nationally. One study conducted in Miami and Philadelphia showed that both white and black bail judges showed bias against black defendants when setting bail in these cases. According to the study, conducted by researchers from Princeton and Harvard, black defendants were more likely to be detained awaiting hearings or trial than white defendants by 2.4 percentage points.

In addition, the average cash bail amount for black defendants was a full $7,281 higher than the average amount for white defendants. The study mirrors earlier results indicating that the metrics used by bail judges to determine whether to award bail and the amount to set can rely on racial stereotypes and prejudices about danger rather than the facts of the case. The study's analysis showed that the white defendants given bail were far more likely than the black defendants to be re-arrested after being released.

The study also noted that bail judges may rely on stereotypical analyses that exaggerate the risk that black defendants will commit more crimes. In addition, the study also found that racial bias is higher and more pronounced among judges with less experience or among those who serve as part-time bail judges. The study promoted increased training and feedback for bail judges, given the clear difference in results shown from experienced and inexperienced judges.

The cash bail system can contain numerous inequities, from the extra costs of racial stereotyping to the inability of less well-off defendants to be released before trial. When people have been arrested, a criminal defense attorney may work to secure pre-trial release, which has been shown to have a significant influence on the likelihood of acquittal at trial.

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