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NCJ Number: 199949 Find in a Library
Title: Race and Presentencing Decisions in the United States: A Summary and Critique of the Research
Journal: Criminal Justice Review  Volume:27  Issue:2  Dated:Autumn 2002  Pages:203-232
Author(s): Marvin D. Free Jr.
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 30
Type: Literature Review; Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article summarizes and critiques research that has examined whether pretrial decisions reflected racial bias in cases that involved African-American defendants.
Abstract: Restricting the review of research to empirical investigations since 1970 yielded a final sample of 68 studies. The pretrial decisions examined were bail and pretrial release decisions, decisions to prosecute versus dismiss the case, and decisions to seek the death penalty in capital-eligible cases. The studies reviewed suggest that racial bias may enter into bail decisions and decisions to seek the death penalty; however, race was neither the sole nor the strongest predictor of presentencing outcomes in the studies reviewed. Gender, age, education, income, employment status, appearance, and demeanor were other possible defendant attributes that may have affected presentencing decisions. Further, characteristics of the court (rural versus urban, court congestion index, etc.) and of the judge presiding over the case may have influenced decisionmaking. Also, presentencing decisions may be influenced by a host of legally relevant variables such as a defendant's criminal record, offense type, presence of aggravating and mitigating factors (in homicide cases), community ties and bail history, and evidentiary strength. Victim traits may also impact pretrial decisions. The author notes that although some conclusions can be drawn about racial bias in pretrial decisionmaking, shortcomings inherent in the research have impeded a clear understanding of the role of race in criminal case processing. This article includes a critique of research methodology. 5 tables and 14 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Bail/Financial Release; Capital punishment; Pretrial release; Prosecutorial discretion; Prosecutorial screening; Racial discrimination
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