Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Julie Honnold

Second Advisor

Susan Bodnar-Deren

Third Advisor

Nita Bryant


Utilizing data from the United States Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities (SISCF) 2004, this research investigates the possibility that African American drug offenders receive lengthier prison sentences and are imposed more range of time or indeterminate sentences as opposed to flat sentences based on race and/or non-racial characteristics; specifically parole status prior to sentencing, plea agreement status, prior criminal history, education status prior to arrest, employment status prior to arrest, and parental incarceration. While regression analysis revealed racial sentencing disparity for length of sentence and type of sentence (p< .05 and p< .001 respectively), among non-racial characteristics, only education status prior to arrest proved a significant predictor for length of sentence (p≤ .001). African American drug offenders were more likely sentenced to indeterminate sentences as opposed to flat sentences and were less likely to receive short sentences of 0 to 4 years or medium sentences of 4 to 10 years as compared to long sentences of 10 or more years. Potential research implications include the necessity for additional research regarding racial sentencing disparity as length or type of sentences as opposed to disparity as a numerical or a percentage difference between racial groups as well as the utilizing of inmate data that encompasses recent changes in drug sentencing laws, e.g. crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. Future research might also consider the evolution of marijuana laws in the United States and the potential impact on racial sentencing disparity.


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