7 JIJIS 261 (2007)
The Cumulative Effects of Racial Disparities in Criminal Processing

handle is hein.journals/jijis7 and id is 269 raw text is: THE CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF RACIAL DISPARITIES IN
Traci Schlesinger
DePaul University
Data from the State Court Processing Statistics Series was used to analyze the
cumulative effects of racial and ethnic disparities in criminal processing of men who
are charged with felony drug offenses in large urban counties from 1990 to 2002.
Estimating a series of models, I find not only that Black and Latino men receive less
beneficial sentencing decisions than White men with similar legal characteristics, but
also that these disparities are produced through a combination of direct and indirect
effects. More particularly, I find that Black and Latino men are less likely to be
granted non-financial release, more likely to be denied bail, and are given higher bails
than White men with similar legal characteristics; that Black and Latino men are more
likely to be adjudicated as felons than White men with similar legal characteristics;
and that sentencing outcomes are determined by a combination of current case
characteristics, prior record, economic resources and networks, and racially disparate
processing-both indirectly through pretrial incarceration and level of adjudication,and
directly during sentencing decisions.
The Cumulative Effects of Racial Disparities in Criminal Processing
acial disparity in punishment has a long history in the United States; Blacks
have been disproportionately incarcerated since shortly after the Civil War
(Curtin, 2000) and racial disparities increased again during the last quarter of
the 20th century (Beckett, 1999). Currently, Blacks are 600% and Latino/as are 50%
more likely than Whites to have ever been imprisoned-and disparity is not limited to
prisons. Blacks are almost three times more likely than Latinos and five times more
likely than Whites to be in jail (Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2006). In 1997, 1
out of every 11 Blacks living in the U.S. was under some form of correctional
supervision, compared to 1 out of 50 Whites (BJS, 1998). When this disparity is
combined with current prison boom levels of criminal justice intervention, the results
are disastrous; by 2001, almost 17% of Black men had been imprisoned at some time
in their life. Looking toward the future, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2003) predicts
that if imprisonment rates remain unchanged, one in three Black men born in 2001 will
go to prison at some point during his life.
While racial disparity in punishment is acknowledged, scholars disagree about its
sources. Almost undoubtedly, disparity is the result of the interactions between race-
salient criminal laws,1 differential offending,2 differential policing,3 and differential
For example, federal sentencing guidelines penalties for crack are dramatically more punitive
than are those for powder cocaine. Also, many state codes include sentencing enhancements for crimes
committed in public housing (Schlesinger, 2006).
Direct correspondence to tschlesi@depauL edu
 2007 by the author, published here by permission
The Journal of the Institute of Justice & International Studies Vol 7

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