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Economic Inequality and Discrimination in Sentencing

NCJ Number
Social Forces Volume: 65 Issue: 3 Dated: (1987) Pages: 746-766
Date Published
21 pages
This paper integrates two separate research traditions that link inequality and official response to crime: it focuses on inequality both as a property of communities where punishment occurs and as a property of punished offenders.
Community inequality is conceptualized as a context that conditions differential treatment based on offender attributes and behavior. The analysis of data from Georgia supports such a conceptualization. Inequality tends to foster disproportionately harsher punishment of more dangerous and socially disadvantaged offenders. There are exceptions to these general trends, however. Most notably, white rather than black offenders are at a disadvantage in counties with high racial income inequality and large black populations. Taken as a whole, the results argue for greater attentiveness to the economic context within which sentencing occurs, and for research strategies that can specify the intervening mechanisms through which community inequality operates. (Publisher abstract)

Date Published: January 1, 1987