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The Impact of Gender and Race-Ethnicity in the Pretrial Release Process

Social Problems
Vol. 51, No. 2 (May 2004), pp. 222-242
DOI: 10.1525/sp.2004.51.2.222
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Page Count: 21
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The Impact of Gender and Race-Ethnicity in the Pretrial Release Process
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This study analyzes pretrial release data on a sample of felony defendants representing the nation's 75 most populated counties for 1990–1996 to assess the main and interactive effects of gender and race-ethnicity on both pretrial release decisions and outcomes. We find that both gender and race-ethnicity have moderately strong main effects on whether the defendant secures pretrial release, net of controls for legal factors like prior record and offense conduct. Female defendants are more likely to receive pretrial release than their male counterparts, while Hispanic and black defendants are more likely to be detained than similarly situated white defendants. Most notably, we find that compared to all other gender-racial/ethnic defendant groups, white females are the most likely to receive pretrial release. In contrast, Hispanic males receive the most disadvantaging decisions throughout the pretrial release process and are the group most likely to be detained. A major factor that explains this discrepancy in outcomes is the inability of many Hispanics and blacks to post bail to gain their release.

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