Vast Racial And Ethnic Disparities Found In South Bay Court System

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen released a report about racial and ethnic disparities in criminal prosecutions by his office.
Photo credit Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office/Facebook

SAN JOSE — Latinos and African Americans in Santa Clara county are charged with a far higher percentage of criminal cases than their size of the population, according to a report released on Tuesday by the county district attorney's office. 

Although Latinos account for 26 percent of county residents, they make up 45 percent of felony defendants while African Americans constitute two percent of the population, but 13 percent of defendants in felony cases, according to the annual "Race and Prosecutions" report

"I don't have an answer as to why this is all happening," said assistant prosecutor James Gibbons Shapiro, "but I do think it's important for us to realize it's happening and to think about how we can reduce disproportionality in our criminal justice system."

White residents make up 33 percent of the county's population and 21 percent of people charged with felonies. Asians and Pacific islanders make up 35 percent of Santa Clara county's population and are prosecuted in 8.5 percent of felony cases. 

The DA's annual self-examination of racial disparities focused on the five zip codes with the highest levels of crime. Three of those areas are in East San Jose. The figures are based on data from 2017. 

The report offered no specific explanation for the apparent discrepancies by race in the county's criminal justice system. 

Gibbons Shapiro. said those are not just areas where more people are arrested and charged, but also sections of the county where more people are victims of crime, earn less money and complete lower levels of education. 

"Racial disproportionality in our criminal justice system remains a stark and vexing problem," the report says. "While we do not have a solution for it yet, we are determined to continue to study the issue in hopes to understand it better. One day, we hope to see a system that is as humanly fair and free of bias as possible."