The Dangerous Drug Offender in Federal Court: Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culpability

Cassia Spohn, Lisa L. Sample

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examines the complex relationships among stereotypes about crime, the offender's race/ethnicity, and sentencing decisions. Using data on White, Black, and Hispanic male drug offenders sentenced in three U.S. district courts and a definition of the dangerous drug offender appropriate to the federal sentence system, the authors explore the degree to which stereotypes about dangerous drug offenders influence sentence length. The results reveal that fitting the stereotype of a dangerous federal drug offender (i.e., a male drug trafficker with a prior trafficking conviction who used a weapon to commit the current offense) affected the length of the prison sentence for Black offenders but not for White or Hispanic offenders. Further analysis revealed that this effect was confined to Black offenders convicted of drug offenses involving crack cocaine. The results provide further evidence that the focal concerns guiding judicial decision making may vary depending on the offender's race or ethnicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-31
Number of pages29
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Volume59
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2013

Fingerprint

offender
ethnicity
drug
Pharmaceutical Preparations
stereotype
offense
Hispanic Americans
Crack Cocaine
district court
Weapons
Prisons
imprisonment
Crime
weapon
Decision Making
decision making
evidence

Keywords

  • drug offenders
  • federal sentencing guidelines
  • sentencing disparity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

Cite this

The Dangerous Drug Offender in Federal Court : Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culpability. / Spohn, Cassia; Sample, Lisa L.

In: Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 59, No. 1, 02.2013, p. 3-31.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{9365d51c6c5f4feb8a1ce4a9732d02d9,
title = "The Dangerous Drug Offender in Federal Court: Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culpability",
abstract = "This study examines the complex relationships among stereotypes about crime, the offender's race/ethnicity, and sentencing decisions. Using data on White, Black, and Hispanic male drug offenders sentenced in three U.S. district courts and a definition of the dangerous drug offender appropriate to the federal sentence system, the authors explore the degree to which stereotypes about dangerous drug offenders influence sentence length. The results reveal that fitting the stereotype of a dangerous federal drug offender (i.e., a male drug trafficker with a prior trafficking conviction who used a weapon to commit the current offense) affected the length of the prison sentence for Black offenders but not for White or Hispanic offenders. Further analysis revealed that this effect was confined to Black offenders convicted of drug offenses involving crack cocaine. The results provide further evidence that the focal concerns guiding judicial decision making may vary depending on the offender's race or ethnicity.",
keywords = "drug offenders, federal sentencing guidelines, sentencing disparity",
author = "Cassia Spohn and Sample, {Lisa L.}",
year = "2013",
month = "2",
doi = "10.1177/0011128708319928",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "59",
pages = "3--31",
journal = "Crime and Delinquency",
issn = "0011-1287",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Inc.",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The Dangerous Drug Offender in Federal Court

T2 - Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Culpability

AU - Spohn, Cassia

AU - Sample, Lisa L.

PY - 2013/2

Y1 - 2013/2

N2 - This study examines the complex relationships among stereotypes about crime, the offender's race/ethnicity, and sentencing decisions. Using data on White, Black, and Hispanic male drug offenders sentenced in three U.S. district courts and a definition of the dangerous drug offender appropriate to the federal sentence system, the authors explore the degree to which stereotypes about dangerous drug offenders influence sentence length. The results reveal that fitting the stereotype of a dangerous federal drug offender (i.e., a male drug trafficker with a prior trafficking conviction who used a weapon to commit the current offense) affected the length of the prison sentence for Black offenders but not for White or Hispanic offenders. Further analysis revealed that this effect was confined to Black offenders convicted of drug offenses involving crack cocaine. The results provide further evidence that the focal concerns guiding judicial decision making may vary depending on the offender's race or ethnicity.

AB - This study examines the complex relationships among stereotypes about crime, the offender's race/ethnicity, and sentencing decisions. Using data on White, Black, and Hispanic male drug offenders sentenced in three U.S. district courts and a definition of the dangerous drug offender appropriate to the federal sentence system, the authors explore the degree to which stereotypes about dangerous drug offenders influence sentence length. The results reveal that fitting the stereotype of a dangerous federal drug offender (i.e., a male drug trafficker with a prior trafficking conviction who used a weapon to commit the current offense) affected the length of the prison sentence for Black offenders but not for White or Hispanic offenders. Further analysis revealed that this effect was confined to Black offenders convicted of drug offenses involving crack cocaine. The results provide further evidence that the focal concerns guiding judicial decision making may vary depending on the offender's race or ethnicity.

KW - drug offenders

KW - federal sentencing guidelines

KW - sentencing disparity

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84871484522&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84871484522&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1177/0011128708319928

DO - 10.1177/0011128708319928

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84871484522

VL - 59

SP - 3

EP - 31

JO - Crime and Delinquency

JF - Crime and Delinquency

SN - 0011-1287

IS - 1

ER -