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NCJ Number: 99356 Find in a Library
Title: Life Support for Ailing Hypotheses
Journal: Law and Human Behavior  Volume:9  Issue:3  Dated:(September 1985)  Pages:271-285
Author(s): G Kleck
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 15
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A review of relevant research does not indicate support for the hypothesis of widespread racial discrimination in sentencing in the United States; yet summaries of this research in various publications have given the opposite impression by using various techniques to mislead the reader.
Abstract: A research review, including recent sophisticated studies, indicates that for the vast majority of offenses, jurisdictions, and judges, race exerted no statistically significant effect on adult criminal sentencing, when controlling for legally relevant variables, for either capital or noncapital crimes. Summaries of this research in many publications, however, have given the opposite impression by using a biased selection of studies. These misleading reviews have also used the ploy of 'letting the evidence speak for itself.' This involves presenting data to show that blacks are overrepresented in prison and among the executed relative to their proportion in the general population. Readers are left to draw their own conclusions from this data. These publications further pad impressive lists of studies supposedly supporting a discrimination hypothesis by lumping together studies concerning a variety of criminal justice processes other than sentencing and legally irrelevant defendant traits other than race. Moreover, equal weight has been implicitly given to all studies, regardless of the quality of methodology used (the least rigorous studies have tended to support the discrimination hypothesis). Finally, evidence which contradicts the discrimination hypothesis has been described as 'mixed' or 'ambiguous.' Such misleading reviews have diverted many researchers from the more important defendant variable impacting sentencing, i.e., socioeconomic class. Twenty-three references are listed.
Index Term(s): Racial discrimination; Research methods; Sentencing disparity
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