November 5, 2014
The Impact of Race, Gender, and Age on the Pretrial Decision In the book Courts by Cassia Spohn and Craig Hemmens one article caught my attention on this idea of pretrial decisions and how race, age and gender play a specific role. The pretrial release decision is a crucial point in the judicial system. The article examines the defendants pretrial decisions based on race, gender and age. It is believed that these three components affect the outcome of a pretrial detention. It shows how each of the three parts have gaps within a judge’s discretion. In the article it states that “the focal concern for a judge is comprised of blameworthiness, dangerousness, and practical constraints.” Blameworthiness is largely determined by the legal factors of offense severity and prior record. Dangerousness is determined by variables of offensive type, such as personal, property, drug, use of weapon, and education and employment status of the defendant. Practical constraints consist of factors such as jail space and case flow. Also it contains family responsibilities, whereas it takes in child care duties and factors in whether you’re married or not. This theory of how judges comprise their pretrial decisions is also affected by race, gender, and age. The through many studies it shows that the demographics of the offender often do play a role and shape the overall outcome of the defendants. This is still stating that judges do follow their focal concerns but with a biased outlook on people. In the criminal justice world for a judge it really comes down to their discretion. This is why I chose discretion as the main concept of this article. Discretion is defined as “the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.” Judges exercise this main concept every day in there criminal pursuit for justice. It is what this world is has been built off of and how things are to be considered right or wrong. Judges hold a lot of power and are responsible for a big part of living in a civil society. They in a sense create some of the gaps between race and gender in the justice department. Some key aspect to this article is that gaps that are shown in the criminal justice process. One main gap would be that black males are more often than not treated more harshly than white males. The data shows that judges tend to view younger minority males as more dangerous and more blameworthy leading to harsher sentences for these individuals. Judges take a biased look at black males and seen them as a threat to society more than a white male. This type of discretion is wrong in the sense that all men are supposedly created equal. The numbers from the study show that black males are less likely to make bail due to higher bail amount and there low economic status. This type of leniency towards white males and not black males only adds on the struggles of race inequality. This inequality is a growing problem within the United States. It creates more barriers between the races and only causes more tension and more crime as a result.
Another gap in the pretrial detention process is in the gender from males to females. It states within the article that “the overall examined studies have found that females were treated more leniently than male defendants.” This gap is also unfair and unjust in the criminal justice process. Yes we can agree males may be seen as having more physical strength and a tougher appearance, but that does not give the right for judges to treat women any less of threat to society as males. The data shows that males are more likely to have stricter pretrial detentions than females. This is also backed by another article called The Effect of Gender on the Judicial Pretrial Decision of Bail Amount Set. In the article it goes on to state “studies suggest that women defendants are treated more leniently than men. And in examining the incarceration decision, found