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Criminal sentencing research has traditionally focused on felony sentencing disparities between Whites and Blacks, and more recently, between Whites and Latinos. This study examines over 8,000 misdemeanor cases registered in 1992 from three Nebraska non-metropolitan counties to further determine the nature and scope of racial/ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system. In comparison to Whites and Latinos, Native Americans have significantly higher proportions of individuals charged with more serious misdemeanor offenses, and are charged with a significantly higher mean total number of offenses. Even though legal variables accounted for a great deal of the variance in multivariate OLS and logistic sentencing models, Native Americans received significantly harsher punishment for the conviction of misdemeanor crimes when compared to Whites and Latinos. Results clearly indicate the need for more criminal sentencing research that better takes into account the social context of law enforcement and sentencing. In particular, researchers need to critically address if and how racial/ethnic bias in the enforcement and punishment of misdemeanor codes affects other aspects of criminal adjudication - i.e., felony convictions.

Keywords: Misdemeanor sentencing; Native Americans; Racial/ethnic sentencing disparities

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08884310215664

Affiliations: 1: Sociology and Latino/a Studies, Institute for Social and Behavioral Research, 108 East Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-1070 2: Social Development Research Group, University of Washington, 9725 3rd Avenue NE, Suite 401, Seattle, WA 98115

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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