July 30, 2021

This week, researchers from Prosecutorial Performance Indicators, a project of Florida International University and Loyola University Chicago, released a new report illustrating that Black people charged with felonies are less likely to have their cases referred to a diversion program, or programs that open the door for a person to address the underlying behavior that got them in trouble with the law without receiving a criminal conviction that carries a lifetime of collateral consequences. This finding held true across the four jurisdictions studied: Milwaukee, Chicago, Jacksonville, and Tampa.

This research illustrates the need to intentionally acknowledge and combat the existing racial disparities within the criminal justice system’s approach to both prosecution and the practice of offering diversion programs to those who interact with the criminal justice system. In an effort to shift away the troubling and inequitable pattern revealed by the data, the report offers five recommendations on how to move forward: collect more data, conduct more research, reconsider prior records that may bar people from diversion, have prosecutors consider the racial impact of diversion programs, and decline to prosecute cases rather than divert to reduce roadblocks.

This research is supported by the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), a $258 million national initiative funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, to support collaboration among local leaders and communities to reduce over-incarceration and eliminate racial disparities in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys is a Strategic Ally for the Safety and Justice Challenge initiative.

More information about the work underway can be found on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org. You can also share the findings on the SJC’s Facebook page or retweet the SJC on Twitter.