Study: Large Number of Minorities Detained While Awaiting Trial

156001749BARNSTABLE – A think tank says a disproportionate number of racial minorities are in jail as they await trial and those granted bail face amounts up to four times higher than white defendants in some Massachusetts counties.

Those counties include Barnstable, in which MassINC found that black residents make up 2.4 percent of the county’s population but represent 25 percent of the county’s pretrial detainees.

The report found that the most striking disparities were in Barnstable, Franklin, Berkshire and Norfolk counties.

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe believes that the discrepancies are caused by societal issues.

“This kind of stuff is a bit of a chicken and an egg argument,” said O’Keefe. “The crime comes first, and then the bad consequences follow from that.”

O’Keefe added that the discrepancies and criminal activity could be attributed to a number of factors including a lack of job opportunities and family structure.

“Those people who are concerned with what might appear to be statistics that are skewed against certain groups, ought to look at the social determinates of crime,” said O’Keefe.

The report’s researchers did not conclude what crimes the defendants were charged with.

The report also outlines bail disparities in Barnstable County.

The median bail set for black defendants is $20,000, compared to $5,000 for white defendants, according to the report. But the study did not examine the specific crimes for which people were being held.


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