Sentences Given to Convicted Drug Offenders: An Examination of the Race Effect, By Specific Drug Offenses

Pauline Brennan, Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte

Given criticism stemming from possible discrimination in court processing, structured sentencing is now a reality in many courtrooms across the country. Under such a sentencing scheme, one may assume that offenders, with similar criminal histories, convicted of similar offenses will be given similar penalties. Despite this change in sentencing policy, however, the debate over racial disparity in court processing continues. To test the possibility that felony drug offenders may be differentially sentenced on the basis of their race, I construct offense-specific equations of the sentencing outcome-one for those convicted of possession, another for those with a top conviction charge for intent to sell or deliver drugs, and third for offenders convicted of drug sale or delivery. I use a random sample of defendants whose felony drug cases were disposed, during calendar year 2000, in the administrative drug court in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Updated 05/20/2006