Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2387145
 


 



Institutionalizing Bias: The Death Penalty, Federal Drug Prosecutions, and Mechanisms of Disparate Punishment


Mona Lynch


University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

February 1, 2014

American Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 41, No. 1

Abstract:     
The empirical study of capital punishment in the “modern” era has been largely decoupled from scholarship addressing the corollary late-20th century noncapital punitive developments, such as the rise of mass incarceration. Consequently, research that has examined the problem of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty and research on the proportional growth of minorities in American correctional populations have advanced on parallel tracks, rarely intersecting. In light of this symposium’s effort to strengthen the linkages between the death penalty and mass incarceration, this article examines two seemingly distinct cases of racially disparate criminal justice practices — the trial courts’ processing of contemporary capital cases and federal drug trafficking cases — to illustrate the institutionalized mechanisms that produce racial inequalities in both mass incarceration and capital punishment. I advance a meso-level, social-psychological theory on the production of institutional racism that also aims to integrate contested lines of thought about the mechanisms of bias and discrimination. To accomplish these ends, I specifically focus on three problem areas in the structure and operation of contemporary American criminal justice: 1) the codification of inequality in how crimes and criminal culpability are defined and how sentencing rules are structured; 2) the distribution, by both stage and actor, of discretionary decision-making power; and 3) the mechanisms for relief from the harshest potential punishments.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: federal sentencing, capital punishment, drug prosecutions, mass incarceration, institutional racism, implicit bias, critical race theory

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Date posted: January 30, 2014 ; Last revised: February 28, 2014

Suggested Citation

Lynch, Mona, Institutionalizing Bias: The Death Penalty, Federal Drug Prosecutions, and Mechanisms of Disparate Punishment (February 1, 2014). American Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 41, No. 1. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2387145

Contact Information

Mona Lynch (Contact Author)
University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )
2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697
United States
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