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The Champion

July and August 2011 , Page 28 

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Gang Databases: Labeled for Life

By K. Babe Howell

Last summer, NACDL members completed a survey on the impact of allegations of gang affiliation on bail decisions and pretrial detention. The survey was inspired by a case in which a 16-year-old — considered an adult in the New York criminal justice system — was jailed on a first-arrest misdemeanor charge when a prosecutor requested high bail at arraignment, alleging that the youth was in the gang database.

How often are gang allegations made in connection with bail requests? What effect do they have on pretrial release? On case outcomes? How accurate are they? Are the allegations ever tested? Are they generally limited to cases involving gang-related activities or are they made on unrelated misconduct? Do they frequently result in pretrial incarceration?

Research on this issue provided no existing answers to these questions, so I created a survey and sent it to defender offices in New York. NACDL also posted a link to the survey in one of its electronic updates.1 The results, while limi

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