Ethnic Antagonism and Judicial Punishment: A Comprehensive State-by-State Analysis of the Evidence, 1982-1996

Pedro R. Payne, University of California - Riverside

Based on concepts of ethnic antagonism and ethnic threat, the present study seeks to document arrest, sentencing, and incarceration trends by state to determine patterns of racial disparities, if any. Given the current data on corrections and punishment, the study's aim is to determine whether theories of ethnic antagonism and power/threat hypotheses can inform the prediction of racial disparities in law enforcement and corrections. The study is based on arrest, incarceration, and sentencing data collected between the years 1982 and 1996 for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Key questions include whether ethnic threat and the fear of minority offenders affects the arrest rates and possible incarceration and sentencing decisions of these offenders. If so, which variables have the strongest influence on such outcomes? Among the variables considered by race are; crime and arrest rates, income/unemployment level, minority growth rate, percent minority urban population, as well as the state's rate of incarceration and sentence length. Other independent variables that will be analyzed include any sentencing guidelines as well as the political and social history of the states. Results show a correlation between various measures of ethnic threat and the punishment and correction of minority offenders.

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Updated 05/20/2006