Victim-Based Effects on Racially Disparate Sentencing in Ohio


  • Supported under Award 98-CE-VX-0015 from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice. Thanks to Travis Pratt for his assistance on this project.

John Wooldredge, Division of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, PO Box 210389, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0389; email: Wooldredge is at University of Cincinnati; Griffin is at University of Nevada–Reno; Thistlethwaite is at Northern Kentucky University; Rauschenberg is with Ohio Parole Authority.


Scholars have argued that African-American men accused of violently victimizing whites receive especially harsh treatment in court. This thesis was tested with samples of felony defendants processed in Ohio courts before and after the implementation of sentencing guidelines. During the preguideline period only, African-American men accused of victimizing whites were less likely than other defendants to plead guilty in exchange for reduced charges and/or sentences, and African-American men incarcerated for violent crimes against whites received longer sentences than other incarcerated offenders. During the postguideline period only, by contrast, the odds of pleading guilty in exchange for reduced charges were actually higher for African-American men accused of victimizing whites. African-American male prison terms significantly declined relative to incarcerated whites from the preguideline to the postguideline period. The interaction effect of defendant-victim race was significant during the preguideline period, not significant in the postguideline period, and significantly changed over time.