Racial and Ethnic Differences in Pretrial Release Decisions and Outcomes: A Comparison of Hispanic, Black, and White Felony Arrestees

Stephen Demuth, Bowling Green State University

The relationship between race and sentencing remains an issue at the forefront of research on inequality and stratification in the criminal justice system. But, the focus on race and sentencing brings to light two notable gaps in our knowledge about the sanctioning of criminal defendants. First, researchers have been slow to investigate whether Hispanics are treated differently than whites and blacks in the criminal courts, despite the dramatic increase in the Hispanic population in the United States. Second, while a substantial amount of research has investigated the sentencing stage, considerably less research has examined the effects of race and ethnicity at earlier stages of the criminal case process. Given the substantial discretion available to decision makers at earlier stages and the considerable attrition that occurs as cases move through the criminal case process, it is necessary to more closely examine earlier stages of the process. Using felony defendant data collected by the State Court Processing Statistics (SCPS) program of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the focus of the present study is on Hispanic, black, and white differences in pretrial release decisions and outcomes in large urban courts.

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Updated 05/20/2006