Why is this important? Not all individuals are equally likely to come into contact with the justice system. Systemic drivers–such as neighborhood and access to education, employment opportunities, and health resources–can impact involvement. In addition, based on wealth, some defendants may be better positioned to get “out” of the system–for example, to pay bail, afford private counsel, or access treatment. Effective prosecution strategies should consider ways to ensure that cases are processed fairly, in light of these differences.
What are we doing to ensure that race and ethnicity data are accurate? Collecting accurate race, ethnicity, and gender data is critical to achieving equity and fairness in the justice system. It is best practice to collect race, ethnicity, and gender data via self-report, meaning that the defendant decides how they are identified. Our office is taking control of this data and seeks to collect race and ethnicity statistics from a variety of sources derived from self-identification. We hope that accurately identifying the race and ethnicity of our Hispanic citizens will improve as we implement these practices.
As stated in our discussion of the "Case Filing Differences by Defendant Race/Ethnicity" indicator, it has been a challenge to collect accurate race and ethnicity information about our Hispanic populace.
Until we develop a more accurate way of collecting this data, it should be viewed with caution. Data collection protocols used the the U.S. Census Bureau may be different than the protocols used in this project. Additionally, census data is a snapshot in time and may not accurately reflect current demographics. Generally speaking, district population data from the 2020 census shows that the number of cases filed involving Hispanic individuals matches the Hispanic population of our district as a whole. In 2022, the District Attorney's Office made it a priority to collect more accurate race and ethnicity data. The increase in case filings for Hispanic individuals along with a decrease in case filings for White individuals, compared to prior years, includes improvements in tracking this data.
Below are a set of indicators that provide additional context about defendant characteristics. These indicators help the DA's Office reduce disparities in the criminal system and ensure we are treating all individuals fairly.
- Underlying data counts for each chart can be accessed through this link.
- Data on defendant demographics, including race and ethnicity, is reported to the DA’s Office by law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement currently captures this data through various mechanisms: (1) by linking to prior criminal history records, (2) by scanning a Colorado ID or driver’s license, (3) through fingerprint technology, or (4) based on the officer’s “perceived demographic information of the person contacted” (as required by HB21-1250). Officer assumptions have the potential to lead to inaccurate or inconsistent data.
- In benchmarking against the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice we found that individuals identified as Hispanic are underreported in our data; therefore, we use the defendant’s last name to help identify their ethnicity.