Crystal Yang

First name
Crystal
Last name
Yang
Abstract

Over 20 percent of prison and jail inmates in the United States are currently awaiting trial,
but little is known about the impact of pre-trial detention on defendants. This paper uses the
detention tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to estimate the causal effects of
pre-trial detention on subsequent defendant outcomes. Using data from administrative court
and tax records, we find that being detained before trial significantly increases the probability of
a conviction, primarily through an increase in guilty pleas. Pre-trial detention has no detectable
effect on future crime, but decreases pre-trial crime and failures to appear in court. We also find
suggestive evidence that pre-trial detention decreases formal sector employment and the receipt
of employment- and tax-related government benefits. We argue that these results are consistent
with (i) pre-trial detention weakening defendants’ bargaining position during plea negotiations,
and (ii) a criminal conviction lowering defendants’ prospects in the formal labor market.

Year of Publication
2016
Number
601
Date Published
08/2016
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
9646
Goldin, J., Dobbie, W., & Yang, C. (2016). The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp018049g752g (Original work published 08/2016AD)
Working Papers
Abstract

This paper develops a new test for identifying racial bias in the context of bail decisions –a high-stakes setting with large disparities between white and black defendants. We motivate our analysis using Becker’s (1957) model of racial bias, which predicts that rates of pre-trial misconduct will be identical for marginal white and marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially unbiased. In contrast, marginal white defendants will have a higher probability of misconduct than marginal black defendants if bail judges are racially biased against blacks. To test the model, we develop a new estimator that uses the release tendencies of quasi-randomly assigned bail judges to identify the relevant race-specific misconduct rates. Estimates from Miami and Philadelphia show that bail judges are racially biased against black defendants, with substantially more racial bias among both inexperienced and part-time judges. We also find that both black and white judges are biased against black defendants. We argue that these results are consistent with bail judges making racially biased prediction errors, rather than being racially prejudiced per se.

Year of Publication
2017
Number
611
Date Published
05/2017
Publication Language
eng
Citation Key
10001
Dobbie, W., Arnold, D., & Yang, C. (2017). Racial Bias in Bail Decisions. Retrieved from http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/dsp01bv73c2942 (Original work published 05/2017AD)
Working Papers