The scales of justice are a well-known symbol used to represent the ideals of fairness. Everyone can have faith in a system if bias, privilege and corruption do not determine guilt or innocence. The First Step Act, signed into law in December 2018, is a federal law designed to initiate the start of removing inequities in federal sentencing guidelines. While this is a much-welcomed change for reform advocates, it applies only to federal criminals and felonies. Recent evidence has suggested there is a more widespread problem affecting many New York residents.
A study published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Economics suggests that the average bail set for black defendants in New York and around the country is more than $7,000 higher than for white defendants. The research team from Princeton University and Harvard Law School also suggests that white as well as black bail judges treat black defendants unfairly and make decisions based on racial stereotypes that exaggerate the dangers of releasing them prior to trial.
Eyewitness testimony might not always be reliable in cases in New York. A man in California, who was identified both by the victim and witness in a rape case, was exonerated when DNA evidence indicated he did not commit the crime. He had spent eight years in prison.