SAGE Journal Articles

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Article 4.1

Rocque, M. (2011). Racial disparities in the criminal justice system and perceptions of legitimacy: A theoretical linkage. Race and Justice, 1(3), 292-315.

Historically, research has shown that minorities, especially Blacks, are more likely to be arrested and sentenced to prison terms than their White counterparts. Explanations of these findings range from those claiming that minorities differentially engage in deviant and criminal behavior, to those claiming that the criminal justice system (CJS) treats minorities differently. A related line of work has shown that minorities tend to view the CJS as less just or legitimate than Whites. Most explanations for this finding center on personal experiences of unjust treatment. However, research has also shown that vicarious experiences can influence perceptions of legitimacy toward the CJS and that Blacks often have more negative attitudes even when considering the same objective event as Whites. This article reviews relevant literatures then advances a theoretical linkage between racial disparity in criminal justice contact and legitimacy toward the law. At its base, the model suggests that differential treatment (either personal or vicarious) negatively impacts legitimacy, which in turn increases criminal behavior (and thus, racial disparities in criminal justice contact). The model is important for fully understanding racial differences in criminal behavior and criminal justice contact. Theoretical and empirical implications are discussed.

Article 4.2

Baker, D. V. (2008). Black female executions in historical context. Criminal Justice Review33(1), 64-88.

This article examines the systemic oppression of executed Black women from the earliest periods of American history. The most consistent factor in Black female executions throughout U.S. history is criminal justice authorities’ executions of Black women largely for challenging gendered and racist exploitation. Colonial and antebellum slavery institutionalized the persecution of slave women, who often retaliated against oppressive brutality by killing White masters. White lynch mobs effectively augmented the legal killing of Black women in postbellum society and lowered Black female execution rates. Reduced to a peonage state in the apartheid of Jim Crow, Black women’s crimes of resistance against White brutality paralleled those of slave women decades earlier. And despite the delusional expansion of civil rights and the sovereignty of Black people over the confines of segregation in the modern era, the racialized sexism of American criminal justice has rendered Black women ever more vulnerable to the death penalty.

Article 4.3

Stolzenberg, L., D’Alessio, S., & Eitle, D. (2013). Race and cumulative discrimination in the prosecution of criminal defendants. Race and Justice3(4), 275-299.

Most research investigates the effect of a defendant’s race on severity of imposed legal sanction at only one of several decision points that comprise the criminal justice system. This myopic focus on what can be termed episodic discrimination is problematic because racial discrimination evinced at one decision point may be amplified, negated, or even reversed at other decision points. Here, we synthesize estimates of a defendant’s race on the severity of imposed legal sanction at each of the decision points encountered by a defendant as he or she progresses through the criminal justice system. Although initial results show that the effect of race on severity of outcome depends on the specific decision point analyzed, a synthesis of these race estimates in a meta-analysis reveals that the odds of receiving a severe sanction is approximately 42% higher for a Black defendant even after controlling for prior record and other legal and extralegal variables. Thus, although the influence of a defendant’s race on the severity of sanction is statistically discernible at just two of the eight criminal justice decision points, a substantive cumulative racial discriminatory effect is evident when all the individual decision points are considered in their totality.

Article 4.4

Piquero, N., & Sealock, M. (2010). Race, crime, and general strain theory. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 8(3), 170-186.

A key criminological observation is the overrepresentation of minorities—especially African Americans—in the criminal justice system. Whether this difference is due to differential enforcement by the criminal justice system, differential participation by individuals, or some combination of these two perspectives is a source of much debate and controversy. Unfortunately, few theories have been developed and/or extended to understand race differences in crime. This article applies Agnew’s General Strain Theory (GST) as one potentially useful framework. Results indicate that GST variables operated as expected across the different models and that significant differences did emerge across racial groups. Theoretical implications and future research directions are highlighted.

Article 4.5

Mauer, M. (2011). Addressing racial disparities in incarceration. The Prison Journal91(3), 87S-101S.

This article reviews the current trends and impact of mass incarceration on communities of color, with a focus on criminal justice policy and practice contributors to racial disparity. The impact of these disproportionate incarceration rates on public safety, offenders, and communities are discussed. Recommendations for criminal justice and other policy reforms to reduce unwarranted racial disparities are offered.