Initial data finding on criminal justice in Lehigh County show disparity between Black and white bail amounts

Written by on July 2, 2020

Initial data finding on criminal justice in Lehigh County show disparity between Black and white bail amounts 

By Tyler Pratt

July 2, 2020

There may be disparity in the size of bail amounts for Black and white people in Lehigh County. A local politician has asked a data analytics company to look into the county’s cash bail system. 

And as WLVR’s Tyler Pratt reports, surface level findings show a racial divide.

Lehigh County Controller Mark Pinsley’s job is to investigate county finances. He recently asked the district attorney and courts for race data on cash bail. It’s publicly available, but it costs money to compile thousands of dockets. Pinsley was denied – and told as an elected official he couldn’t buy it. So he asked researcher Lorenzo Marinelli to get it. 

“Black race versus white race – Black bail on average was higher on these available records we have,” said Pinsley.

Marinelli runs Know Your Knowledge, a local marketing and analytics company. He looks at polls numbers and can unpack what’s inside large data sets. Lehigh County’s court data cost about  $1000 dollars to obtain –  but now it needs to be refined. 

“In this data Black and white are races – so Hispanic isn’t included – Hispanic  that identifies as Black or white – so we actually need to get more that includes more ethnicity,” said Marinelli.

Also there are outliers that could explain the disparity – severity of crime, number of charges. And Marirelli wants to dig deeper into crime rates. 

“The idea of looking into this and seeing if there is room for improvement in Lehigh County if there is possibly a problem.”

Marinelli will consult other data and legal experts to verify his findings. He then expects to deliver them to Pinsley in August.

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