Assessing Racial Disparities in Parole Release
In a rational choice model of parole release, a color-blind parole board seeking to minimize violations would release all prisoners below a certain risk threshold. To test this prediction, we extend the outcome-test methodology used in assessing discrimination in police searches. We overcome the inframarginality critique by taking advantage of strategic timing of release: within each racial group, violation rates are equalized for a given sentence length. We use the National Corrections Reporting Program data, which record all parole-release decisions in the United States. We find that violation rates are consistently higher for African American parolees, a result not consistent with a parole board bias against African Americans. This conclusion is robust to a variety of tests, including ruling out postrelease discrimination. Evidence on the timing of release suggests a policy aimed at limiting racial disparities in time served rather than in violation rates, which favors fairness over efficiency.
Mechoulan, Stéphane and Sahuguet, Nicolas
"Assessing Racial Disparities in Parole Release,"
Journal of Legal Studies: Vol. 44
, Article 2.
Available at: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/jls/vol44/iss1/2