5. A system vulnerable to bias, from start to finish

Illustration of a main standing on an X with a gavel coming down on top of him.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A whopping 97% of state and federal convictions are the result of plea bargains, often driven by mandatory minimum sentences, and Black people are more likely to be arrested and charged with crimes that carry those heavier penalties.

Why it matters: Mandatory minimums give prosecutors tremendous leverage in convincing defendants to agree to a conviction without a jury trial. It’s just one example of a trial system rife with racial disparities, from the first contact with law enforcement through sentencing in either the state or federal system.

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