Disproportional Imprisonment of Black and Hispanic Males: Sentencing Discretion, Processing Outcomes, and Policy Structures

Jeffrey Todd Ulmer, Noah Painter-Davis, Leigh Tinik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Disproportional incarceration of black and Hispanic men has been the subject of much critical commentary and empirical inquiry. Such disproportionality may be due to greater involvement of minority men in serious crime, to discretionary decisions by local justice officials, or to the differential impact of sentencing policies, such as mandatory minimums or sentencing guidelines, that differentially impact minority men. This study investigated the extent to which the disproportional punishment of black and Hispanic men, and local variation in such disproportionality, can be attributed to unexplained disparities in local sentencing decisions, as opposed to the extent to which such differences are mediated by sentencing policies, or case-processing and extralegal factors. We use 2005–2009 federal court and Pennsylvania state court data. Our findings suggest, particularly in Federal courts, that most disproportionality is determined by processes prior to sentencing, especially sentencing policies that differentially impact minority males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)642-681
Number of pages40
JournalJustice Quarterly
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 6 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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