Differential Treatment Subtitle of Race Ethnicity Discussion

Read the material in the book under “Differential Treatment” in the beginning of our chapter, and pay close attention to the subtitle of Race/Ethnicity.

First, what is race? Is it biological or socially constructed? What is ethnicity and how is it different from race?

Are people of different races and ethnicities treated differently in police encounters? How so? Be specific.

Are minorities treated differently when it comes to bail?  If so, how?

Let’s now do some research.  Find information about sentencing of minorities.  Are there any differences between the sentences given to the white population as opposed to minority populations?  What are those differences and are they significant?  Find at least 2 outside sources to support your answer and include the links to the sites where you found the information.


Race and Ethnicity:

Race refers to a socially constructed categorization of people based on physical characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, and facial features. It is not biologically determined but rather a product of social and cultural factors. Ethnicity, on the other hand, refers to a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, nationality, or language that defines a group of people. While race is often associated with physical attributes, ethnicity is more related to cultural identity and affiliation. Ethnic groups can encompass individuals from different racial backgrounds who share common cultural traditions and practices.

Differential Treatment in Police Encounters:

People of different races and ethnicities are often treated differently in police encounters, with minorities facing disproportionate levels of suspicion, scrutiny, and aggression compared to their white counterparts. Specific examples include:

  1. Racial Profiling: Law enforcement officers may target individuals from minority racial or ethnic groups based on stereotypes or assumptions about criminality, leading to increased surveillance, stops, and searches.
  2. Use of Force: Studies have shown that police officers are more likely to use force, including deadly force, against people of color, particularly Black and Hispanic individuals, even when controlling for factors such as crime rates and threat levels.
  3. Disparate Treatment: Minorities may be subjected to harsher treatment during interactions with police, such as verbal abuse, physical violence, and wrongful arrests, contributing to feelings of distrust and fear within these communities.

Differential Treatment in Bail:

Minorities also experience differential treatment when it comes to bail determinations. Research has found that Black and Hispanic defendants are more likely to be detained pretrial and less likely to be granted bail compared to white defendants, even when controlling for factors such as offense severity and criminal history. This disparity can result in prolonged pretrial detention, economic hardship, and increased likelihood of plea bargaining to avoid lengthy incarceration periods.

Sentencing Disparities:

Studies have consistently documented sentencing disparities between white individuals and minority populations in the criminal justice system. Research conducted by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) has revealed significant differences in sentencing outcomes based on race and ethnicity. For example, a report published by the USSC in 2017 found that Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1% longer than white male offenders for similar offenses. Similarly, Hispanic male offenders received sentences on average 12.2% longer than white male offenders. These sentencing disparities persist even after controlling for factors such as offense severity, criminal history, and socioeconomic status.


  1. United States Sentencing Commission. (2017). Demographic Differences in Sentencing: An Update to the 2012 Booker Report. [Link: https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2017/20171114_Demographics.pdf]
  2. The Sentencing Project. (2020). Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System. [Link: https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/un-report-on-racial-disparities/]

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