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The Impact of Neighborhood Status on Imprisonment for Firearm Offenses

NCJ Number
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 32(4): 383-400 Volume: 32 Issue: 4 Dated: 2016 Pages: 383-400
Joshua H. Williams; Richard Rosenfeld
Date Published
18 pages

Guided by the group threat and focal concerns perspectives, the current study examined the impact of community racial and socioeconomic composition on the likelihood that African-American male defendants were sentenced to prison rather than probation for firearm offenses in a large Midwestern city.


Burgeoning research on criminal case processing has revealed persistent effects of the race and ethnicity of defendants on case outcomes, up to and including imprisonment, but prior studies have devoted relatively little attention to how the characteristics of the communities in which crimes are committed affect imprisonment and antecedent legal outcomes, such as bail amount and pretrial detention. The current study found that defendants arrested in neighborhoods with higher proportions of non-poor residents received higher bail and, in turn, spent more time in jail and were more likely to be sentenced to prison than those arrested in lower status neighborhoods. There was no significant effect of neighborhood racial composition on bail, pretrial confinement, or imprisonment. The study recommends that the community context of crime receive high priority in future research on the impact of extralegal factors on imprisonment. (Publisher abstract modified)