Ethnicity effects on sentence outcomes in large urban courts: Comparisons among white, black, and Hispanic defendants

Stephen Demuth, Darrell Steffensmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective. This study examines Hispanic-black-white differences in sentences imposed on offenders appearing in state felony courts. Methods. The present study uses data collected by the State Court Processing Statistics (SCPS) program of the Bureau of Justice Statistics for the years 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1996. Results. Hispanic defendants are sentenced more similarly to black defendants than white defendants. Both black and Hispanic defendants tend to receive harsher sentences than white defendants. Also, ethnicity effects are the largest in the sentencing of drug offenders, whereas race effects are largest in the sentencing of property offenders. Furthermore, the present study demonstrates that the failure to consider defendants' ethnicity in comparing black-white sentence outcomes is likely to result in findings that misrepresent black-white differences. Conclusions. The results clearly demonstrate the necessity of considering not only defendants' race (i.e., black-white differences) in sentencing but expanding our focus to also include defendants' ethnicity (i.e., Hispanic-white and Hispanic-black differences).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)994-1011
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Volume85
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)

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