DOI: 10.1177/00224278231220613 ISSN: 0022-4278

An Examination of Racial and Ethnic Disparity in Prison Misconduct Punishment

Alexandra V. Nur
  • Social Psychology

Objectives: To examine whether the likelihood of guilty dispositions and the manner of sanctioning prison misconduct differs across racial/ethnic groups, with emphasis on sanctions other than solitary confinement. Methods: A random sample of men incarcerated in a large Northeastern state prison system is analyzed. Propensity weights are estimated by Black–White and Hispanic/Latino-White prehearing characteristics. Weighted logistic regression is used to examine guilty verdict, weighted multinomial logistic regression is used to examine type of sanction, and weighted ordinary least squares regression is used to examine length of sanction. Results: Findings reveal disproportionality in the likelihood of receiving a misconduct write-up, though reduced likelihood of guilty verdict among Black charges. Minor non-restrictive sanctions are used less among Black individuals and loss of privileges is used more often among Hispanic/Latino individuals, while disciplinary confinement is used more often among White individuals. Black and Hispanic/Latino individuals receive longer sentences for certain sanction types. Some effects are conditional on offense severity. Conclusions: Differential imposition and length of seemingly lenient sanctions may disadvantage Black and Hispanic/Latino groups for rehabilitative resources, while imposition of solitary confinement may disadvantage White groups in terms of restrictive damages. Parity should be sought in the implementation of sanctions for similarly severe misconduct.

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