Prosecutorial Decision-Making Tool to Advance Equity

Project Summary

The project team aims to assess the integration of an equity tool into the prosecutorial decision-making processes to determine whether the tool has an effect on racial inequities in criminal case outcomes. The equity tool, accessed through an app, will modify the processes and criteria that prosecutors use to make decisions and provide a mechanism to integrate office-level policy into prosecutors' workflow. The app is intended to support prosecutorial decision-making at four decision points: bond recommendations, diversion decisions, plea offers, and sentencing recommendations. 

Research Question(s)

  1. What is the impact of an equity tool and associated training on prosecutorial recommendations and criminal case outcomes?
  2. How can processes that support racial equity be integrated into prosecutors' workflow?


  1. Change prosecutorial practice in order to decrease racial inequities in criminal case outcomes
  2. Inform local, state, and national policymakers on how the equity tool works to potentially implement this tool 

Racial Equity Implications

The criminal justice system contributes to numerous poor health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities by exacerbating health conditions and complicating health outcomes for both reentering people and the communities to which they return. Structural racism in the United States, including discriminatory policing and sentencing practices, leads to Black and Hispanic individuals being more likely to be arrested, incarcerated, and negatively impacted by the justice system. Seemingly race-neutral decisions by prosecutors can cause and perpetuate racial disparities. The need for a tool to support prosecutors in addressing racial disparities was identified through an in-depth analysis (, which found that a greater percentage of cases involving Black individuals were dismissed or had their charges reduced; a greater percentage of cases involving Hispanic individuals resulted in a guilty plea; and a greater percentage of cases involving Hispanic individuals were sentenced to incarceration.


Health: The outcomes related to the impact of the tool are the recommendations that prosecutors make at the four decision points (bond recommendations, diversion decisions, plea offers, and sentencing recommendations); outcome of the criminal case, including disposition and whether the individual was sentenced to incarceration. There is strong evidence supporting  involvement in the criminal justice system as a major social determinant of health, currently contributing to numerous poor health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.


The study will be conducted in two large, racially diverse Judicial Districts in Colorado where in-depth analyses of racial disparities in case outcomes have already been conducted. For Research Question 1, prosecutors will enter information about their decision-making processes into an app without use of the equity tool (the baseline period), followed by random assignment to use the equity tool (intervention period). Research Question 2 will involve a mixed-methods assessment of factors that facilitate or inhibit use of the app and equity tool, including what additional training or support is needed.

Two female-appearing people with manicured nails are looking at a phone over a desk. Underneath there are white notepads, and in the background is an old fashioned balance/weigh scale, insinuating some sort of law office.
Grantee and Partner organizations

University of Colorado Denver
Colorado’s 1st Judicial District
Colorado’s 18th Judicial District

Grant status
In Progress
Principal investigators
Lauren Gase, PhD, MPH
Jennifer Kilpatrick, JD
Start date
Award amount
24 months

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