This study examines the complex relationships among stereotypes about crime, the offender's race/ethnicity, and sentencing decisions. Using data on White, Black, and Hispanic male drug offenders sentenced in three U.S. district courts and a definition of the dangerous drug offender appropriate to the federal sentence system, the authors explore the degree to which stereotypes about dangerous drug offenders influence sentence length. The results reveal that fitting the stereotype of a dangerous federal drug offender (i.e., a male drug trafficker with a prior trafficking conviction who used a weapon to commit the current offense) affected the length of the prison sentence for Black offenders but not for White or Hispanic offenders. Further analysis revealed that this effect was confined to Black offenders convicted of drug offenses involving crack cocaine. The results provide further evidence that the focal concerns guiding judicial decision making may vary depending on the offender's race or ethnicity.
- drug offenders
- federal sentencing guidelines
- sentencing disparity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine