Photo by Grant Durr New ACLU Report Finds Racial Disparities in Sentencing
Photo by Grant Durr

“It is imperative that county attorneys take accountability for harm caused and take immediate steps to challenge racism within its ranks.”

There are racial disparities in the sentencing of Black and Latino individuals in Arizona, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU of Arizona looked over a database of 51,165 cases it obtained that were handled by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2017 where the defendant was given either jail time, probation or was sent to prison for at least a day. 

Among the key findings in The Racial Divide of Prosecutions in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office report, the ACLU of Arizona’s analysis of cases revealed that Black people and Latinos spend more time behind bars than white people in Maricopa County. 

Also, Latinos receive longer sentences for marijuana violations than Black or white individuals in the county. Latinos sentenced on a marijuana charge were, on average, sentenced two months longer than white offenders for the same crime. 

On the other hand, the report found that Black people tend to receive longer sentences for drug paraphernalia than Latinos or white individuals. Black offenders prosecuted in Maricopa County spend an average of 1,004 days in prison or jail while Latinos spend an average of 990 days behind bars. 

Average Jail and Prison Sentence (in Days)
Visualization courtesy of ACLU of Arizona Smart Justice report

In fact, according to this new ACLU report, not only are white residents more likely to have their case dismissed than Black or Latino people but when ordered to pay a fine, Latinos pay “significantly” larger fines than white offenders.

Average Fine
Visualization courtesy of ACLU of Arizona Smart Justice report

The report revealed that 11.2% of white people’s cases were dismissed, while Black people had 10.6% of cases dismissed and Latinos only had 8.6% of cases dismissed.

ACLU of Arizona Campaign Strategist Analise Ortiz said in a press release, “Racial disparities touch every aspect of the criminal legal system. Prosecutors are the most powerful actors in that system…It is imperative that county attorneys take accountability for harm caused and take immediate steps to challenge racism within its ranks.”

The ACLU now wants the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to prioritize addressing these racial disparities in their prosecutorial decisions. 

According to this new report, Arizona has the fifth-highest incarceration rate in the country. To read the full analysis “The Racial Divide of Prosecutions in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office,” click here

This report was conducted as part of ACLU of Arizona’s Campaign for Smart Justice.