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Examining Sentencing Disparity in Virginia: The Impact of Race and Sex on Mitigating Departures for Drug Offenders

Race, Ethnicity and Law

ISBN: 978-1-78714-604-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-603-7

ISSN: 1521-6136

Publication date: 25 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This research examines the direct and interactive effects of defendant race and sex on judicial decisions to utilize mitigating departures in cases involving felony drug convictions in Virginia.

Methodology/approach

Logistic regression models are used to examine judicial decisions to depart downward in Schedule I & II, and Other (Schedule III, VI, and V), drug cases. The direct and interactive effects of race and sex on departure decisions are modeled separately for Schedule I & II and Other drug offenses.

Findings

Defendant race and sex exert both direct and interactive effects on decisions to sentence offenders below the guidelines for both drug categories. Cases involving Black and male defendants, relative to white and female defendants, are significantly less likely to result in mitigating departures for Schedule I & II, and Other drug, violations. The interaction models indicate that cases involving Black male defendants are less likely to result in mitigating departures than other cases, while cases involving white females have higher odds of receiving mitigating departures than other cases.

Originality/value

This chapter adds to the current literature on sentencing disparity by examining unwarranted sentencing disparity in Virginia, where scant research has been conducted. Furthermore, this research models decisions separately by drug category and examines both the direct and interactive effects of race and sex.

Keywords

Citation

Elis, L. (2017), "Examining Sentencing Disparity in Virginia: The Impact of Race and Sex on Mitigating Departures for Drug Offenders", Race, Ethnicity and Law (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 22), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 115-133. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1521-613620170000022010

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited