Division of Criminal Justice Releases Report on Race/Ethnicity & Gender in Colorado Justice Syste

(LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Dec. 21, 2016) The Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) within the Colorado Department of Public Safety has released its first “Report on the C.L.E.A.R. Act: Community Law Enforcement Action Reporting Act” analyzing race/ethnicity and gender data from stages throughout the criminal justice system in Colorado.

In 2015, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 15-185, the Community Law Enforcement Action Reporting (CLEAR) Act. The CLEAR Act mandates that DCJ annually analyze and report data provided by law enforcement agencies, the Judicial Department, and the adult Parole Board, to reflect decisions made at multiple points in the justice system process. Senate Bill 15-185 requires that the data be analyzed by race/ethnicity and gender.

The report, which presents information for calendar year 2015, is now available online at colorado.gov/dcj-ors/ors-SB185. In addition to a report, the DCJ Office of Research and Statistics has also posted a web-based, interactive dashboard that allows users to drill down into the data by offense type.

These two reporting mechanisms—the report and the data dashboard—should be viewed together in order to provide adequate context and analysis around the data sets.

Researchers within the DCJ Office of Research and Statistics analyzed more than 325,000 arrests, summonses, court filings and parole decisions on an aggregate, statewide basis for the study.

 It should be noted that the study analyzes events that occurred in a single calendar year (2015) and thus cases represented in each section are not necessarily the same cases. (This is due to the fact that a lag exists between when an arrest results in a filing, when a filing results in a sentence, and when an offender is paroled.)  Additionally, it’s important to note that while law enforcement and parole collect ethnicity, the Judicial Department collects information on race but not ethnicity—meaning that many Hispanic defendants are classified as White in court-related data. Consequently, the race/ethnicity data for all court decision points must be interpreted with caution.

Although the 74-page report contains numerous data points and findings, some of the most salient findings were:

·         In 2015, Blacks represented 4.2% of the state population but accounted for 12.4% of arrests/summonses. These arrests/summonses were more frequently for serious offenses such as assault, aggravated assault, homicide, robbery and weapons-related offenses.

·         Even after controlling for concurrent cases and criminal history, Blacks were more likely than other race/ethnicity categories receive sentences to prison or, for juveniles, to the Division of Youth Corrections. They were also less likely to receive a deferred judgment; a deferred judgment is an opportunity to avoid a criminal history.   

·         Whites and Asians were more likely to be released early by a parole board compared to Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. Blacks were less likely than any other race/ethnicity categories to be released early by a parole board.

·         Women were more likely than men to receive a deferred judgment and less likely to receive a jail sentence.

 The study only provides data on an aggregate, statewide level and does not break down each category by city, county or judicial district. Additionally, while the study may reveal disparities within the criminal justice system, it does not seek to speculate on reasons for the disparities. “None of the data answered questions as to why these disparities occur,” said Kim English, Research Director for the Department of Public Safety and lead author of the report. “This study provides data and analysis that can serve as a tool for decision makers who are continually working to make our state’s criminal justice system work better for the citizens it serves.”

To review the study and use the interactive online database, please visit colorado.gov/dcj-ors/ors-SB185.