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Essays on Gendered Criminal Justice and Racial Bias in Policing

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This dissertation employs quasi-experimental methods and recent advances in econometrics to uncover the causal links and policy levers that are relevant to gendered criminal justice and racial bias in policing.

Chapter 1 evaluates the consequences of a policy that deputizes landlords to internalize public safety externalities; nuisance property ordinances. These ordinances label a property as a nuisance when police respond to a home a set number of times within a certain period. After having a property declared a nuisance, property owners who do not abate the nuisance can face fines and criminal charges. Therefore the concern is that this policy may incentive landlords to retaliate against tenants who report crimes, thus raising the cost of crime reporting which is especially worrisome for domestic violence where the cost of reporting is already high. I collect data on implementation of these ordinances across major cities in the U.S. and consider what happens to domestic assaults when these ordinances are passed. I exploit the variation in timing of the implementation of these ordinances and find that this policy reduces the rate at which domestic assault is reported to police.

Another wing of my work examines variation across a variety of criminal justice contexts local to Nashville, TN. The first of these papers, Chapter 2 (joint with Emily Owens and Kerri Raissian) provides one of the first credibly causal evaluations of specialty courts in the criminal justice context, and there are two key innovations. Relative to the small amount of existing research, which explores how cases change after the introduction of a court, we are able to identify how decision making and case outcomes change in cases set before a well-established fully operational specialty court. Second, we are able to examine not only the impact of these courts on offenders, but also on victims. We find that examining both reoffending and revictimization provides a substantially different picture of the impact of these courts than reoffending alone; what initially appears to be a “null” impact on recidivism is revealed to be the result of both an increase in victim safety and willingness to involve the court when future violence does occur.

In Chapter 3, joint with Yoonjung Kim and Jaclyn Rosenquist, we utilize a unique data set and exploit the variation of arrestees’ location to study the causal effect of being charged with the drug-free school zone enhancement. we find that enhancement charges against eligible offenders are more likely to be applied to Black arrestees than White arrestees, leading to lasting impacts across races in sentencing outcomes. We present preliminary evidence of White defendantsbeing offered better plea deals as the mechanism driving these results.

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This item is under embargo until May 31, 2028.