ADVANTAGES

Other stages of the system contribute to the racial composition of state prisons as well. Factors such as pre-trial detention—more likely to be imposed on black defendants because of income inequality—contributes to disparities because those who are detained pre-trial are more likely to be convicted and sentenced to longer prison terms.32) Cassia Spohn’s analysis of 40 states’ sentencing processes finds that, though crime seriousness and prior record are key determinants at sentencing, the non-legal factors of race and ethnicity also influence sentencing decisions. She notes that “black and Hispanic offenders—particularly those who are young, male, and unemployed—are more likely than their white counterparts to be sentenced to prison than similarly situated white offenders. Other categories of racial minorities—those convicted of drug offenses, those who victimize whites, those who accumulate more serious prior criminal records, or those who refuse to plead guilty or are unable to secure pretrial release—also may be singled out for more punitive treatment.”33)

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