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The Convergence of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class on Court Decisionmaking: Looking Toward the 21st Century

NCJ Number
Date Published
50 pages
This chapter explores the multiple ways in which the defendant's and victim's class, gender, race, and ethnicity interweave to influence criminal court decision making, and it speculates about what these patterns and controversies suggest for the future.
The chapter begins with a review of the major findings from studies with singular emphases on race, gender, or class, outlining the key themes that have emerged in the theoretical and empirical literature. Next, research that explicitly considers the interaction of two or more of these dimensions is addressed, again focusing on both substantive and methodological concerns. Having laid this groundwork, the author uses the prosecution of crack mothers and the murder trial of O.J. Simpson to exemplify the crucial importance of simultaneously considering the race, ethnicity, gender, and class status of both the offender and the victim. Continuing this theme, the chapter examines three contemporary crime control policies -- the war on drugs, the war on gangs, and the automatic transfer of youths to adult court -- to illustrate how policies and the court decisions based on them may be racialized, gendered, and classed. The second part of the chapter turns toward the future, as it explores some central controversies and questions facing criminologists as we enter the 21st century. These include a range of conceptual and methodological issues, including the distinctions between race/ethnicity and culture and between sex and gender; the crucial importance of how discrimination is defined; and measurement issues such as how best to code race, ethnicity, and class. The ramifications of crime control policies and criminal justice decisions for poor communities of color are also emphasized. The chapter concludes with recommendations for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers. 173 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000