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Exploring the effect of objectively assessed skin tone on prison sentences among black female offenders

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Description: The effect of race on sentencing outcomes in the criminal justice system has been widely examined, but there has only been modest consideration of the importance of skin tone within racial groups. In an earlier study, Viglione et al. (2009) found that black women who are lighter-skinned receive lesser prison sentences and serve less time once in prison. In this study, skin tone was assessed by correctional officers upon intake into prison, so it is unclear whether an individual's skin tone causes their sentence to be longer via the perceptions of judges or if having a longer sentence causes a correctional officer to perceive that offenders have darker skin. The current study looks to expand upon existing research by utilizing an alternate operalization of skin tone that makes use of a digital color meter in Adobe's Photoshop. The present analysis examines photographs and criminal record data from the North Carolina Department of Corrections and the Arkansas Department of Corrections for over 500 black women to determine how objectively measured skin tone affects sentencing outcomes.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work