Media Contact

Analise Ortiz | |480-709-0503

July 16, 2020

For Immediate Release

The ACLU of Arizona released a report today revealing concerning patterns of racial disparities within the prosecution practices of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

The Racial Divide of Prosecutions in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office includes data analysis of more than 51,000 distinct cases filed between January 2013 and December 2017.

Among the key findings:

  • Black and Hispanic people prosecuted by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office spend significantly more time incarcerated than white people.
  • When prosecuted for simple marijuana possession, Hispanic people are sentenced to significantly longer jail and prison sentences than their white and Black counterparts.
  • When prosecuted for personal possession of drug paraphernalia, Black people consistently receive longer prison, jail and probation sentences than white or Hispanic people.
  • White people are more likely to have cases dismissed or not filed than individuals of any other race.
  • When ordered to pay a fine, Hispanic people pay significantly higher fines than white people—an average of about $246 greater—after controlling for charge severity, presence of a plea, gender, and number of days someone’s case remains in the system.

“These findings are deeply upsetting, but, unfortunately, not unexpected,” said ACLU of Arizona Campaign Strategist Analise Ortiz. “Racial disparities touch every aspect of the criminal legal system. Prosecutors are the most powerful actors in that system. The decisions prosecutors make every day contribute to these racially disparate outcomes: from setting parameters of plea deals to deciding which charges to pursue and which charges to dismiss. It is imperative that county attorneys take accountability for harm caused and take immediate steps to challenge racism within its ranks.”

Melissa Kovacs of FirstEval who holds the Professional Statistician (PStat) certification from the American Statistical Association completed the analysis.

The data was obtained after the ACLU of Arizona was forced to sue the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in May of 2019 for violating Arizona’s Public Records Law.

“It should never have taken a lawsuit for Maricopa County residents to get a clear picture of how the color of their skin might unjustly influence the outcome of their criminal case. County attorneys have operated in secrecy for far too long, fighting against any efforts to make them more transparent. It’s time this public office is held accountable for the harm its decisions have made to Black and Brown communities in Arizona,” said ACLU of Arizona criminal justice staff attorney Jared Keenan.

The full report can be found here.