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October 16, 2007

New Report on Race, Ethnicity, and U.S. Criminal Justice

Washington, DC—With the recent “Jena 6” racial incident at the forefront of debate and controversy in the United States, the relationship between race and the criminal justice system is once again the center of national attention.

A new research brief released recently by the American Sociological Association, in its series on How Race and Ethnicity Matter, highlights data and research on racial and ethnic disparities in crime and the criminal justice system in the United States. Focusing on studies that span several decades, the brief demonstrates how research from the social and behavioral sciences serves as a resource to understand the relationship between race and the criminal justice system.

The brief indicates that researchers have concluded that there is a substantial body of evidence to show race differences in the juvenile justice system. Studies also show that the most severe impacts of criminal justice outcomes over the past several decades have been experienced by young, black males, who are stopped, searched by police, arrested, sentenced, and incarcerated at levels far beyond their representation in the general population.

The brief finds that social science research overall shows that racial discrimination does occur in some stages of justice processing, some of the time, and in some places, and that small differences in treatment accumulate across the criminal justice system and over time, resulting in larger differential outcomes for different races and ethnicities.

Katherine Rosich, the author of the brief, noted that the objective was to present a balanced picture of what is known about race/ethnicity in different stages of criminal justice processing from systematic research evidence. The research studies featured in the article are illustrative of the great body of research that can provide insights into this wide-ranging topic.

For a copy of the report, contact Sujata Sinha at (202) 247-9871 (, or download a pdf file of the report here.

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.