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The Shadow Carceral State and Racial Inequality

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Friday, October 14, 2022
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Ted Enamorado, Washington University at St Louis
Statistical Science Seminar

Attention to the carceral state has focused on its bookends: policing and sentencing. Between these bookends lies an under-researched but far-reaching "shadow" carceral state, a hybrid of criminal and commercial systems that often contravenes the principles of liberty, due process, and equal protection. Pretrial detention is an iconic example. It accounts for most people in local jails on a given day. Up to half of the detainees will not be convicted, yet detention often lasts months and triggers significant losses. How does this widespread punitive, arbitrary, and unequal experience affect political behavior? Using Probabilistic Record Linkage to merge court records from Miami-Dade with voter records, and the as-if random assignment of judges to defendants, we find that pretrial incarceration substantially decreases voting among African Americans and Hispanics. Consistent with stereotyping, the effect holds only with inexperienced judges, whose rushed decisions are more biased. These results point to the neglected but important shadow carceral state.