Minority threat, community disadvantage and sentencing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: Prior studies of criminal sentencing have largely focused on individual-level predictors of sentencing outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of a variety of theoretically derived community measurements of social threat and disadvantage on the criminal sentencing of convicted felons. This analysis permits an evaluation of whether legal ideals such as equality before the law and policy goals of equal treatment for like offenders are achieved. Design/methodology/approach: The study examines data of individuals sentenced in the state of Florida and community level measurements of racial and ethnic threat and community disadvantage. Hierarchical generalized linear model is used to analyze the effect of these measures on the dichotomous in/out imprisonment variable, and standard hierarchical linear regression analysis is used to model the continuous dependent variable of sentence length. Findings: The results provide support for the racial threat perspective though not for ethnic threat nor community disadvantage. The findings and their implications are discussed in terms of theory, research and policy. Practical implications: Racial disparity in criminal justice practices is receiving increasing public and policy attention, as evidenced by the growing Black Lives Matter movement. Regarding sentencing, racial disparity remains a major research and policy question. While the current research and theoretical literature on sentencing is not conclusive, it is clear that race matters. As a result, racial disparity in sentencing needs to be a priority in subsequent “transitional criminology” efforts between researchers and policy makers to identify, explain and ultimately predict exactly how race impacts sentencing, and how to reduce it as a consideration from sentencing. Originality/value: This study contributes to a growing body of literature that examines the social context of punishments by using several community level measurements of threat and disadvantage, while modeling the two-step sentencing outcome of imprisonment and sentence length.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-225
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 12 2018


  • Community disadvantage
  • Imprisonment
  • Minority threat
  • Multilevel
  • Sentence length
  • Sentencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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