A Cooperative Exploration of the Impact of Race on the Legal Process

Kathryn McKernan, Indiana University, Bloomington
Amy Christine Kearns, Indiana University

Research has documented a disparity in correctional trends between Black and White populations. Some literature attributes this difference to differential rates of arrest and type of offense committed. The following research augments this dialogue by exploring characteristics of arrests, charging, and sentencing for Blacks and Whites in Monroe County, Indiana. With Blacks constituting only three percent of the population in this area it is of interest to compare their representation in this local justice system to national trends. The sample used in this analysis is drawn from cases processed in the criminal justice system for the year 2000. This research is unique in that it was initiated through a cooperative effort between practitioners, academics, and area community leaders, following the findings of an earlier task force, which documented evidence of racial disparities in Monroe County. Our investigation has benefited from unrestricted access to booking information and prosecutorial files. A quantitative analysis of this primary data enriches our understanding of racial disparity in this particular locale and allows us to posit some possible explanations for why such differences exist, as well as what we might learn from areas in which we find similarity, rather than disparity.

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Updated 05/20/2006