In the last quarter of the twentieth century, prison admission rates rose precipitously, racial disparities remained high, and the proportion of prisoners who are women increased dramatically. While several scholars argue that changes in sentencing policies are responsible, there have been few empirical examinations of this presumed connection. This study examines whether or not mandatory terms and sentencing enhancements are associated with increases in state level admission rates, whether these increases—if they exist—are larger among women than among men, whether and how these gender disparities vary by race, and whether the effect of these sentencing policies on either scale or disparities varies by offense type. The study has four major findings. First, mandatory terms and sentencing enhancements increase prison admission rates for violent, property, and drug crimes. Second, these policies disproportionately burden women. Third, the gender disparate impacts of these policies are most consistent among blacks. Finally, the effects of these policies are most consistently associated with increases in violent admissions, but associated with the most substantial increases in drug admissions. These findings corroborate the theoretical perspective offered and suggest that policies that require people to be “similarly situated” in order to be deserving of “equal treatment” are incapable of producing justice.


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pp. 27-47
Launched on MUSE
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