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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Unwarranted Disparity Statement: A New Tool to Reduce Disparities In Postarrest Outcomes


This Article proposes a new data-driven approach that can be employed to help reduce postarrest disparities in criminal case outcomes in the United States: the unwarranted disparity statement. In Part I, the Article documents the existence of unwarranted disparities in postarrest criminal case outcomes, highlights structural reforms that have been implemented to address these disparities, and argues that a data-driven approach that helps to reduce these disparities in the short term is needed. Part II describes three data-driven approaches that have been proposed or employed to address postarrest case outcome disparities and identifies key limitations of each of these approaches that are not present with the unwarranted disparity statement. In Part III, the Article provides a basic framework for the unwarranted disparity statement approach and describes the content of unwarranted disparity statements. Part IV provides an empirical illustration of how the unwarranted disparity statement approach would work in practice using data from the 2009 State Court Processing Statistics. Part V assesses the strengths and limitations of the unwarranted disparity statement approach. Last, in Part VI, the Article concludes by making the case that the unwarranted disparity statement should be employed as a complement to, not a substitute for, structural change efforts to the criminal legal system.

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