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

  • Shamena Anwar
  • Hanming Fang

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18239.

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Date of creation: Jul 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18239
Note: LE PE
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  1. Mechoulan, Stéphane & Sahuguet, Nicolas, 2011. "Assessing Racial Discrimination in Parole Release," CEPR Discussion Papers 8506, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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