The Joint Effects of Offender Race/Ethnicity and Sex on Sentence Length Decisions in Federal Courts

Pauline K. Brennan, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current study examined the main and interactive effects of offender race/ethnicity and sex on sentence length decisions for drug offenders convicted in three federal courts located in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. The additive model showed that females received shorter prison sentences than similarly situated male offenders, but there were no differences between white offenders and minority offenders. However, when the data were partitioned by sex, black males were found to receive lengthier prison terms than white males. There were no differences between white males and Hispanic males, and white females were treated no differently than either black or Hispanic females. Moreover, when the data were partitioned by race/ethnicity, white females were treated no differently than white males. However, black females received shorter sentences than black males and Hispanic females received shorter sentences than Hispanic males. Further analyses showed that black and Hispanic males also received longer sentences than white females and that black males received longer sentences than all other offenders (with the exception of Hispanic male offenders). These findings mesh with those gleaned from other sentencing studies, although they are at odds with theoretical notions that leniency at the sentencing stage is reserved only for white women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-217
Number of pages18
JournalRace and Social Problems
Volume1
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

Keywords

  • Federal sentencing guidelines
  • Racial/ethnic
  • Sentencing
  • Sex disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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