High-profile cases of violence against minorities in the U.S. have focused on police tactics. A new study points to another potential cause of criminal justice inequity: 95 percent of American prosecutors are white. So are 98 percent of prosecutors in Kansas and all but one in Missouri.
If you get in trouble with the law in a Kansas county and don’t live in Saline or Crawford, you will be charged by a white prosecutor. Moniteau County is the only jurisdiction in Missouri where the prosecutor isn’t white.
A new study by the Women Donors Network shows that 95 percent of elected American prosecutors are white. Whites make up 78 percent of the population.
In Kansas the number is even higher: 98 percent of elected prosecutors are white. One out of 94 total prosecutors is Hispanic, and one is black. Minorities made up 13 percent of the total population in Kansas in 2014, according to the most recent census.
All but one of the 114 elected county prosecutors in Missouri are white.
A wave of protests in the U.S. in the past two years has focused on police violence against minorities in places such as Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y. Now many jurisdictions are adopting different police tactics and buying body cameras for officers.
But the study points to a new source of potential inequity in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors decide which cases are tried, the amount of resources to use on a particular case, what kinds of charges are brought and what kinds of plea deals are offered, according to a news release.
“The tremendous power and discretion in the hands of prosecutors, combined with the concentration of those positions among one demographic group, virtually guarantees inequality in our criminal justice system,” said Brenda Choresi Carter, director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign.