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Hillsborough prosecution data highlights racial disparities, justice trends

Tampa prosecutors can measure the impact of their work beyond conviction rates and prison commitments, courtesy of an academic study.

TAMPA — A data-focused study of prosecutorial practices in Tampa has produced a series of benchmarks that Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren says represent a new way of measuring how well his office does its job.

Warren on Thursday rolled out an online “Data Dashboard” offering a statistics-based look at things like racial disparities and trends in juvenile cases.

The data is the culmination of a multi-year project in which Warren’s office partnered with researchers from Florida International University and Loyola University of Chicago. The researchers examined data from case files in Warren’s office, along with prosecutors’ offices in Jacksonville, Chicago and Milwaukee, with the aim of tracking and measuring prosecutorial practices in ways other than through conviction rates and prison commitments.

“This borrows some of the best ideas from the business world,” Warren said in a news release. “We’re digging into the data, even the data that’s not so pretty, to understand whether we’re delivering the products our customers want.”

Among the most striking findings: Cases involving Black victims are 6 percent more likely on average to be dismissed as compared with the overall average. The reasons for this discrepancy are not completely clear, though the website notes several common reasons that cases get dismissed, including a lack of witness cooperation and victims deciding not to go forward.

“Higher dismissal rates for cases with Black victims may indicate that additional efforts need to be made to engage Black victims, identify obstacles to Black victims seeking justice in the criminal justice system and develop solutions,” the state attorney’s website states.

Another section features data about the state’s handling of juvenile cases, including numbers that show a decrease in recent years in the number of juveniles charged as adults, along with an increase in the use of civil citations for juveniles.

Other data illustrates the dramatic increase in the number of cases in which prosecutors dismissed cases of driving with a suspended license after drivers paid back financial obligations.

A $1.7-million grant from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge funded the study.

The Hillsborough data is available online at sao13th.com/data.

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