Skip Navigation
Research Report

Racial Disparities in Federal Prosecutions

  • Brennan Center for Justice
Published: April 14, 2010

In 2005, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the National Institute for Law and Equity brought together 12 former prosecutors, most of whom had served as United States Attorneys, to look hard at racial and ethnic disparities within the federal criminal justice system and begin to craft a solution to this long-standing and troubling problem.

All acknowledged that prosecutors wield great power throughout criminal prosecution. All agreed that it is essential to monitor the role that race and ethnicity play in each stage of the prosecutorial process. 

A critical opportunity exists for DOJ to take concrete actions to achieve meaningful reform at both the federal and state levels. Our hope is that DOJ will: i) expand its capacity to track data on practices that produce bias; ii) support local and state-based initiatives run by prosecutors and by defenders that aim to reduce unwarranted racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system; and iii) provide racial and ethnic sensitivity training to the staff of U.S. Attorney offices, and where practicable, state and local prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

As we republish these Guidelines, our hope is that Congress and the Administration will work together to take all necessary steps to incorporate these core principles into legislative and administrative directives designed to eliminate unwarranted racial and ethnic disparities from our criminal justice system and to begin to restore public confidence in the promise of equal justice.