Spatial dimensions of racial inequality: Neighborhood racial characteristics and drug sentencing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


While scholars have noted that The War on Drugs has disproportionately impacted Black and Latino communities, we have little understanding as to how spatial patterns of prosecution and sentencing drive these inequalities. This article explores the geography of race in drug prosecutions by examining the role of neighborhood racial/ ethnic and other demographic characteristics on sentencing outcomes for drug defendants in Sacramento, CA. We examine both the rate and length of sentences by block group. Specifically, we first estimate models for the number of prison, jail, and probation or fine sentences as rates per population and as rates per filing. We find that felony drug defendants in Black neighborhoods are penalized after filing through an increased rate of prison sentences per filing, although they do indicate a higher but not statistically significant rate of sentences per population as well. On the other hand, initial patterns of filing primarily drive sentencing in Latino neighborhoods. While the rate of prison and probation sentences differs based on the racial and ethnic neighborhood composition, it largely does not impact sentence length.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-58
Number of pages24
JournalRace and Justice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2017


  • Drug laws
  • Drugs
  • Plea-bargaining
  • Probation
  • Race and corrections
  • Race and courts
  • Race and sentencing
  • War on drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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