What We Know, Do Not Know, and Need to Know About Sentencing and Mass Incarceration in the U.S. and What “Sentencing” Research Could Teach Us

Authored by: Rodney L. Engen

Handbook on Punishment Decisions

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138221475
eBook ISBN: 9781315410371
Adobe ISBN:


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In her historic 2016 Presidential Address to the American Society of Criminology (ASC), ASC President Dr. Ruth Peterson called upon scholars to “take stock of what we know, do not know, and need to know” about race, crime, and justice, to seek answers to “looming general questions,” and to identify the mechanisms and processes that produce race/ethnic disparities at different levels of analysis (Peterson, 2016, 2017). In the realm of sentencing and sentencing disparity, it is fair to say that scholars have been taking stock of the state of knowledge individually, and as a community, on a more-or-less ongoing basis for many years. As a result, we have several excellent, and still timely, reviews summarizing the evidence and the development of this research over the past thirty years, highlighting the strengths and limitations common to much of the research, and urging scholars to extend the boundaries of our research enterprise. As so much ground has already been covered, I encourage interested readers to study these papers, carefully (e.g., Spohn, 2015; Ulmer, 2012; Baumer, 2013).

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