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Racial Disparity in Sentencing: Reflections on the Hood Study

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This article analyses Roger Hood’s 1992 study of race and sentencing, which found evidence of possible racial discrimination in certain Crown Courts. Examining recent criticisms of the validity of these findings, it is suggested that an adequate threshold of significance was used in the study; that the exclusion of certain status variables did not invalidate the study’s findings; and that the choice of which sentencing variables to control for is ultimately a normative matter. Next, the article considers what steps – other than alleviating discrimination – would be needed to reduce racial imbalance in the prisons. It is argued that little is likely to be gained by seeking to make ‘social adversity’ a basis for sentencing mitigation; and that policies before the sentencing stage would need to be altered instead – for example, those relating to drug-law enforcement.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, 2: University of Ottawa, Canada

Publication date: August 1, 1997


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