Eight Colorado district attorneys on Thursday released detailed data about their operations in an attempt to be more transparent with the public amid broader criticism of racial disparities in and distrust of the U.S. criminal justice system.
The data offers a look at the operations of Colorado’s prosecutors in unprecedented detail, with researchers tracking 55 different aspects of prosecution, ranging from charging and bond decisions to sentencing to how long cases take to be resolved.
“For too long and too often, the justice system feels like a black box of information,” 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner said during a news conference Thursday. “…That changes today.”
The data is presented publicly in online dashboards for each of the eight offices that participated in the research project, which was funded by an $882,000 grant from the Microsoft Justice Reform Institute. The research was carried out by the University of Denver’s Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab and by Prosecutorial Performance Indicators.
Five Front Range district attorneys and three elected prosecutors in other areas of the state participated in the project, including the district attorneys in Denver and Boulder, as well as in Jefferson, Larimer, Arapahoe, Douglas, La Plata, Montrose and Eagle counties, among others.
“We are not offering data for data’s sake,” said Alexis King, the district attorney in Jefferson and Gilpin counties. “We are offering data as a step towards transparency, to promote public trust and really to solve big problems.”
King said she hopes the data will help inform the district attorney’s office of where racial disparities exist within the court process so that the prosecutors can work to remedy those disparities.
“It really came down to me wanting to have a better understanding of what was happening, and really what was happening here,” she said. “Not Denver, not Colorado Springs, but here in Jefferson County.”
The researchers in King’s district found that Black and Hispanic people are more likely than white people to be held in jail before they are convicted of a crime. In 2021, about 31% of white defendants were held in pretrial detention, while 43% of Black defendants and 36% of Hispanic defendants were detained. The data does not yet explore reasons for the disparity.
In an interview last week, King acknowledged the disparity and said the office “has some work to do with implicit bias and bond.” She also noted that researchers found Hispanic defendants were frequently misidentified as white defendants in the collected data, which means Hispanic defendants were likely undercounted and underrepresented in the data.
The pilot effort, which could be expanded statewide, is funded for another year, at which point the prosecutors will need to seek additional funding to keep on collecting and sharing the data.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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