Race, Sentencing, and the Pretrial Process

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2006-08-29

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Previous research has suggested that racial disparity originates from judicial decisions at sentencing; however I argue that racial disparity may originate at the pretrial stage. First, research has consistently demonstrated a potential discriminatory link between race/ethnicity and incarceration. Second, other research has demonstrated that minorities are likely to be assigned a high bail, less likely to afford that bail, and more likely to be detained pretrial. Finally, recent research has also suggested that pretrial detention can lead directly to more guilty pleas and a higher likelihood of incarceration. I predict that accounting for pretrial outcome will decrease the impact of race on the probability of incarceration at the conviction stage. I argue that utilizing a sample of indicted individuals (opposed to convicted offenders) is appropriate approach in type of study. I find that the impact of race on sentencing outcome is reduced when pretrial outcomes are included in the model.

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