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Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Crime and Criminal Justice in the United States

Robert J. Sampson and Janet L. Lauritsen
Crime and Justice
Vol. 21, Ethnicity, Crime and Immigration: Comparative and Cross-National Perspectives (1997), pp. 311-374
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147634
Page Count: 64
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Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Crime and Criminal Justice in the United States
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Abstract

Although racial discrimination emerges some of the time at some stages of criminal justice processing-such as juvenile justice-there is little evidence that racial disparities result from systematic, overt bias. Discrimination appears to be indirect, stemming from the amplification of initial disadvantages over time, along with the social construction of "moral panics" and associated political responses. The "drug war" of the 1980s and 1990s exacerbated the disproportionate representation of blacks in state and federal prisons. Race and ethnic disparities in violent offending and victimization are pronounced and long-standing. Blacks, and to a lesser extent Hispanics, suffer much higher rates of robbery and homicide victimization than do whites. Homicide is the leading cause of death among young black males and females. These differences result in part from social forces that ecologically concentrate race with poverty and other social dislocations. Useful research would emphasize multilevel (contextual) designs, the idea of "cumulative disadvantage" over the life course, the need for multiracial conceptualizations, and comparative, cross-national designs.

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