Texas Center for Justice and Equity

Understanding the Role the Policing-Prosecution Relationship Can Play in Perpetuating Racial Disparities

Houston and Harris County, TX

The criminal justice system is a complicated institution comprising many entities and people that collectively sustain and perpetuate systemic racial injustice. While researchers have examined the disproportionate arresting, incarceration, and sentencing of communities of color, research on how certain justice decisionmakers’ interactions with one another drive racial inequities is limited.

With Catalyst Grant funding, Texas Center for Justice and Equity will analyze criminal court and law enforcement data to understand policing and prosecutorial practices in Houston and in Harris County more broadly. It will analyze case-level data for filed criminal charges, which can reveal decisions about whether charges are accepted at the prosecutorial level, and law enforcement data on patrol locations, which can reveal the frequency of certain offenses and charges in particular neighborhoods. In addition, it will use the data to compare discrepancies and similarities across these data sources and to explore whether and how decisionmaking between law enforcement and prosecutors combine to exacerbate the racial impact of their respective policies. Lastly, it will publish its findings to educate the public on justice system actors’ roles in perpetuating racial disparities and inform policy solutions to advance reform efforts.