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Role of Race and Ethnicity in Parole Decisions

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 46 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2008 Pages: 907-938
Beth M. Huebner; Timothy S. Bynum
Date Published
November 2008
32 pages
This study examined variation in parole timing among a sample of young, serious offenders incarcerated in one State, with attention to links between parole decisionmaking and the direct effects of offenders’ race and ethnicity.
The study found that Black offenders spent a longer time in prison awaiting parole compared with White offenders. The racial and ethnic differences remained as an influence on parole decisionmaking after controlling for legal, various individual demographic, and community characteristics. This reinforces the direct effect of race and ethnicity on parole timing due to decisionmaking factors. Several study limitations are noted, including the lack of controls for the demographic composition of the parole board, the absence of descriptions of the social and organizational context of parole decisions, and the restriction of the study sample to young men incarcerated in one State. This suggests that the results may not be indicative of the parole chances for a more diverse sample of incarcerated men, nor can the conclusions be extended to a female sample. Study data were obtained from presentence investigation reports and official records of the State’s department of corrections. Time from prison admission to time of parole was the dependent variable. Independent variables were race and ethnicity; gang membership; mental health; education; employment; percent of the maximum sentence served; legal consideration (nature of the crime and prior convictions); and community context (concentrated disadvantage, violent-crime rate, and drug-crime arrest rate). 3 tables, 1 figure, 70 references, and appended description of variables