Criminology Article Critique – Extralegal Disparity in the Application of Intermediate Sanctions: An Analysis of U.S. District Courts

Franklin, T., Dittmann, L., & Henry, T. (2015). Extralegal Disparity in the Application of Intermediate Sanctions: An Analysis of U.S. District Courts. Crime & Delinquency63(7), 839-874.

Purpose

The authors noted that intermediate sanctions can help alleviate the problems caused by mass incarceration among the minorities (Franklin, Dittmann & Henry, 2015). However, if specific offender characteristics such as age, sex, and educational attainments influenced the use of intermediate sanctions, then it may negate its positive impact. Therefore, the authors sought to examine the influence of offender characteristics such as race, educational attainment, age, and ethnicity on the application of intermediate sanctions.

Assumptions or Hypothesis

            The authors pointed that since intermediate sanctions are less restrictive and more lenient compared to prison sentences, there is likelihood that certain offenders could be deemed less fit. Thus, this led the authors into forming six hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that Black, Hispanic, male, and younger offenders will be less likely to receive intermediate sanctions as compared with prison. The second hypothesis was that Black, Hispanic, male, and younger offenders will be more likely to receive intermediate sanctions as compared with probation. The third hypothesis was that offenders with greater levels of education will be more likely to receive intermediate sanctions as compared with prison. The forth hypothesis is that offenders with greater levels of education will be less likely to receive intermediate sanctions as compared with probation. The fifth hypothesis is tha among race, sex, and age combinations, young, Black and Hispanic, male offenders will be least likely to receive intermediate sanctions as compared with prison. The final hypothesis is that among race, sex, and age combinations, young, Black and Hispanic, male offenders will be most likely to receive intermediate sanctions as compared with probation (Franklin, Dittmann & Henry, 2015, pp. 9-10).

Methods

            The authors undertook the study on the use of intermediate sanctions among the offenders as an alternative to incarceration. The research was done amongst the offenders from the minority groups since the authors wanted to determine whether the offender characteristics such as age, educational level, and sex influenced its use. The research was conducted among the minorities of the Hispanic and African American ethnicities.  The authors had no personal experiences with the research topic as they stated in the article that the topic has received less study and thus undertook the study to investigate the topic, while making reference to other published literature on the research subject.

Conclusion

            The authors fund that there was less likelihood for Hispanic offenders to receive intermediate sanctions when compared with prison sentence. Moreover, the authors found that though the African American offenders were not treated differently than White offenders. However, when examining probation and intermediate sanctions, the authors found that the odds of receiving intermediate sanctions was 20% greater for Hispanic offenders when compared with white offenders. Alls, the researchers found that Black offenders were less likely to receive intermediate sanctions. When considered n basis f sex, the researchers found that male offenders were less likely to receive intermediate sanctions compared to female offenders.

Critique

            Although the authors performed rigorously study that allowed it to answer the intended research questions, the researchers must broaden some aspects concerning their research findings. It is of the opinion that there is need for the authors t expand more on the reasons that lead to less numbers of Hispanic offenders and Blacks from being given the opportunities to be enrolled in intermediate sanctions. It is believed that there are more factors other than age, sex and educational attainment that can contribute t less number of Hispanics and Blacks from being given chances t serve in intermediate sanctions compared to White offenders.

            The authors failed to consider the roles of other factors such as social inequality and the differences in employment rates among Blacks, Hispanics and Whites. In their study, Pettit & Sykes (2015) found that the percentage of Whites working in paid labor was as high as 84%, whereas employment rates were consistently lower among Blacks. That the authors considered only age, sex, and education, does not provide real picture. This provides a major source of bias, since the reduced chances of the minorities to be given intermediate sanctions could be as a result of other factors such differences in unemployment rates. It is of the opinion that these other underlying factors must be examined since the chances of recidivism among a group that is likely not to get employment would be high, and such groups would rather be given to serve full prison sentence than intermediate sanctions.

Implications

There are several components of community-based sanctions such as probation, parole, and intermediate sanctions, which are carried within the community. According to (Krohn & Lane, 2015) these community based corrections allow offenders to be close to their pro-social peers and family social groups. Among these community-based corrections, probation appears to be more effective. This is because they provide an avenue where offenders who are seeking re-entry gain strong social support system, hence reducing chances of recidivism. Moreover, they are cost-effective and provide additional support such as counseling and other employment and life skills, which are invaluable for offender re-entry into the society.

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