Date of Award

10-10-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Criminology

First Advisor

Erika Frenzel, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer J. Roberts, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kathleen Hanrahan, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jamie Martin, Ph.D.

Abstract

The current study attempts to expand on sentencing literature by conducting a multimethod analysis of race-based sentencing decisions. Replicating the work of Daly (1994), the current study quantitatively examines the role race plays in sentencing decisions in a Pennsylvania county and qualitatively assesses qualitative differences among qualitatively defined "like" crimes. There is a myriad of sentencing literature that has examined the impact race has on the bifurcated sentencing decision (the sentence outcome and the length of sentence imposed on the offender). This research has concluded that race does influence both of these decisions, with black offenders receiving harsher sanctions. Where it can be argued that sentencing research has fallen short, however, is examining why this phenomenon occurs. Daly (1994) offered a blueprint for beginning to answer this question: supplement qualitative analyses with the quantitative analysis. Through the examination of PSI reports and sentencing transcripts, Daly (1994) offered a convincing reason for why women were punished less severely than men: they committed less serious offenses. The current research, in addition to analyzing sentencing data, supplemented this analysis with an examination of police reports of 54 offenders matched on offense, PRS, OGS, sentencing judge, and age. The only difference between the offenders was their race (white versus black). This analysis could shed more light onto why sentencing disparities exist. The study found that black offenders faced greater odds of receiving a prison sentence compared to probation than white offenders and that their sentence length was greater than similarly situated white offenders. In regard to the qualitative analysis, there were examples of quantitatively defined like crimes containing qualitative, contextual differences. Further, there were instances when the crimes appeared similar, but one offender was sentenced more severely. Future sentencing research should incorporate qualitative analyses into their work to continue to assess why minorities continue to face harsher sanctions.

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