American Indians and sentencing disparity: An Arizona test

Alexander Alvarez, Ronet D. Bachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Although a proliferation of research exists examining the extent to which African American criminal defendants receive more harsh sentences relative to Caucasians, comparatively little research has examined the issue of discrimination in relation to other minority groups. This article examines disparities in sentence length received between American Indian and Caucasian inmates incarcerated in Arizona state correctional facilities. Regression analyses were used to predict the sentences received by American Indian and Caucasian inmates convicted of six crimes (homicide, sexual assault, robbery, assault, burglary, and larceny). After prior felony record and other demographic variables were controlled in these crime-specific models, the crimes of robbery and burglary were the only crimes in which American Indians received longer sentences than Caucasians convicted of the same offense. Caucasian defendants received significantly longer sentences than American Indians for cases of homicide. A defendant's prior felony record was the only variable that consistently increased the length of sentence received by defendants across all types of crime. These findings are discussed and interpreted using various theoretical arguments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-561
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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