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Testing for Racial Prejudice in the Parole Board Release Process: Theory and Evidence

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  • Shamena Anwar
  • Hanming Fang

Abstract

We develop a model of a Parole Board contemplating whether to grant parole release to a prisoner who has finished serving their minimum sentence. The model implies a simple outcome test for racial prejudice robust to the inframarginality problem. Our test involves running simple regressions of whether a prisoner recidivates on the exposure time to the risk of recidivism and its square, using only the sample of prisoners who are granted parole release strictly between their minimum and maximum sentences and separately by race. If the coefficient estimates on the exposure time term differ by race, then there is evidence of racial prejudice against the racial group with the smaller coefficient estimate. We implement our test for prejudice using data from Pennsylvania from January 1996 to December 31, 2001. Although we find racial differences in time served, we find no evidence for racial prejudice on the part of the Parole Board based on our outcome test.

Suggested Citation

  • Shamena Anwar & Hanming Fang, 2012. "Testing for Racial Prejudice in the Parole Board Release Process: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 18239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18239 Note: LE PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kate Antonovics & Brian G. Knight, 2009. "A New Look at Racial Profiling: Evidence from the Boston Police Department," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 163-177, February.
    2. Nicola Persico, 2009. "Racial Profiling? Detecting Bias Using Statistical Evidence," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 229-254, May.
    3. M. Marit Rehavi & Sonja B. Starr, 2014. "Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Sentences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(6), pages 1320-1354.
    4. John Knowles & Nicola Persico & Petra Todd, 2001. "Racial Bias in Motor Vehicle Searches: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 203-232, February.
    5. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2014. "A Test of Racial Bias in Capital Sentencing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(11), pages 3397-3433, November.
    6. David S. Abrams & Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2012. "Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 347-383.
    7. Mechoulan, Stéphane & Sahuguet, Nicolas, 2011. "Assessing Racial Discrimination in Parole Release," CEPR Discussion Papers 8506, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Ilyana Kuziemko, 2013. "How should inmates be released from prison? An assessment of parole versus fixed-sentence regimes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 371-424.
    9. Dan Bernhardt & Steeve Mongrain & Joanne Roberts, 2012. "Rehabilitated or Not: An Informational Theory of Parole Decisions," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(2), pages 186-210.
    10. Shamena Anwar & Patrick Bayer & Randi Hjalmarsson, 2012. "The Impact of Jury Race in Criminal Trials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(2), pages 1017-1055.
    11. Stéphane Mechoulan & Nicolas Sahuguet, 2015. "Assessing Racial Disparities in Parole Release," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 39-74.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dragan Ilić, 2013. "Marginally discriminated: the role of outcome tests in European jurisdiction," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 36(2), pages 271-294, October.
    2. David Arnold & Will Dobbie & Crystal S. Yang, 2017. "Racial Bias in Bail Decisions," NBER Working Papers 23421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Ilic, Dragan, 2013. "Prejudice in Swiss Naturalization Decisions: Theory and Evidence," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79953, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Dragan Ili?, 2016. "Prejudice in Naturalization Decisions: Theory and Evidence," Working papers 2016/04, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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