Sentencing Disparities based on County Level Disadvantage



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Research has shown that sentencing disparities are occurring within the criminal justice system based on the personal characteristics of individuals. Specifically, individuals of varying races/ethnicities, genders, and ages are receiving significantly different outcomes when they have similar legal characteristics. This outcome has been explained by judges’ sentencing decisions being influenced by the personal attributes and the perceived threat that individuals pose. Another attribute that has been shown to influence judges’ sentencing decisions and increase perceived threat, but is under researched and characterized by mixed results, is the level of concentrated disadvantage within the individual’s county. To address this under researched area, this study focuses on how the social threat associated with both the individual’s race/ethnicity and their county’s level of concentrated disadvantage and minority composition impact their sentencing outcome, through a multilevel model.



Sentencing disparities, Social threat, Concentrated disadvantage, Racial composition, Ethnic composition, Hierarchical linear modeling