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San Quentin State Prison is located in San Quentin California,
home to male inmates and the state’s only location for death row. San Quentin
State Prison holds a vast majority of prisoners who have committed violence or
serious offenders, which includes 90% of inmates having a current or prior
violent felony conviction.

The population of California adds up to 39.25 million people, and
less than two thirds of California’s adult male population is nonwhite.

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However, despite only making 60% of California’s population, these minorities
make up three of every four men in prison. In 2013, adult African American men
were incarcerated at a rate of 4367 per 100, 000, compared to 922 for Latinos,
488 for non-Latino whites, and 34 for Asians (Public Policy Institute of
California, 2018). Studies are finding that minority groups make up the majority
of inmates in prisons across America. Marc Mauer (2011) states that 1 of every
3 African American males born can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as
can 1 of every 6 Latino males. However, their female counterparts are at lower
rates but the racial disparity is still evident. 1 of every 18 African American
female will go to prison, as oppose to 1 of every 111 White female spend time
in prison.

In this research, I would like to investigate the relationship
between racial identities and how it influences the population of inmates in
San Quentin State Prison. According to research drawn from U.S federal and
state prisons in 1989, it is evident that Black men and women are six to seven
times more likely than their White counterparts to be incarcerated in their
lifetimes. The following proposal presents the “what?” and the “how?” of my
study. Using my resources, I will execute a study that integrates a racial lens
and examines how it intersects with gender and one’s experience with law
enforcement. I will
also investigate other issues such as the problems of the gender disparity in
the impact of judicial leniency and how it intersects with race. The following
are some hypotheses (H) that I would like to investigate in this research:


H1 Racial disparities impact
judicial decisions resulting in minority groups making up a vast majority of
inmates in San Quentin State Prison

H2 Influence of stereotypes attached
to races

H3 Women receive lighter sentences
than male counterparts


Literature Review

            Demuth and
Steffensmeier (2000) use federal court data collected between 1993 to 1996 to
examine racial differences and whether or not they play a role in sentencing
outcomes. Their conclusions find that racial/ethnic disparities emerge in the
process of sentencing. They are able to conclude that Hispanics receive harsher
sentencing than whites and blacks. This article is important when exploring the
question whether white privilege exists in the legal system because the
evidence and research displayed is able to conclude that white people are not
discriminated therefore less likely to receive harsher sentences.

Warren, Chiricos and Bales (2012) focuses
specifically on Florida felony conviction data for the years 2000 to 2006. An
example in their findings are Black and Hispanic males engaging in crime more
often than Whites of the same age. Other research suggests differential
treatment that men and racial minorities experiences during sentencing
decisions because of the definitions of harm and danger that are unequally
distributed across. Judicial decision making takes into consideration factors
before coming to a verdict being: blameworthiness, protection of the community,
and practical constraints and consequences. Stereotype about young Black and
Hispanic males, paired with the perception of stable future criminality
reinforces the perception that young Black and Hispanic males are dangerous and
in need of more severe punishment to prevent future offenses (Warren et al.

2012, 62). Steen, Engen, and Gainey (2005) also found that young Black males
are stereotyped and as a result, are more likely to be seen as blameworthy.

sentencing of crimes, there is a gender gap seen between male and female
defendants. Stephanie Bontrager, Kelle Barrick, and Elizabeth Stupi (2013) compare
the sentencing outcomes for women to men and conclude that women receive less
severe sentences but with the exception of certain conditions. Through
extensive research of gender and sentencing inquiry, they review conflicting
theoretical arguments that overlook the relationship between a defendant’s
gender and the sentence they receive. Women receive less harsh sentences as
oppose to men because of the paternalistic and chivalry theories surrounding
females and sentencing. Male judges will view women as unfit and inappropriate
for imprisonment and feel the need to protect them. Women are labeled as
caregivers and with incarceration; judges are under the impression that their
families will lack supervision and support.


a survey conducted by Freiburger (2010), Pennsylvania judges support the view
that those in a caretaker position are less likely to receive a prison
sentence. Women defendants are generally given leniency when they meet the
expectation of femininity and adhere to the traditional gender roles. These
theoretical arguments assume that the offender’s gender will impact sentencing
decisions and overall, many studies conclude that the chivalry theory is most
supported in courtrooms resulting in women receiving lighter sentences than
their male counterparts. This source applies to my essay because not only does
being a woman impact sentencing but as well as “doing gender,” and following
the gender roles that society has conceptualized. If the defendant meets
femininity expectations, they are given leniency and judges will try to protect
them but if they lack the femininity that is in line with society norms, they
are seen as evil women that deserve harsh sentencing.


Doerner and Stephen Demuth spectate where or not the gender gap in sentencing in
federal court differ in legal and extralegal factors, and if those factors have
the same impact for male and female defendants. Although women can commit
crimes at the same severity as men, they are seen as more deserving of leniency
because they are viewed as better recidivism risks. Female defendants carry
more responsibility in society as caretakers resulting in the court’s
reluctance to sentence women as harshly as men. There are gender gaps in the
justice system when it comes down to sentencing because women who are deemed
feminine were often given the opportunity and were more likely to reform where
as men, and the women who did not meet the feminine standards, were imprisoned.


According to Doerner and Demuth (2010), the odds
of incarceration for female defendants were approximately 42% lower than the
odds of men being incarcerated. Legal and extralegal factors impact male and
female defendants differently when it comes to sentencing and incarceration
because it takes more than just being a female to be granted a more lenient
sentence. Legal factors can include criminal history, where men are definitely
more likely to be imprisoned as oppose to women, and extralegal factors being
gender roles. Legal factors were able to be held accountable for a portion of
the gender gap but, it is still evident that majority of the gap are males
being punished more harshly. This source relates back to my essay because it
dissects the factors around sentencing and how it impacts male defendants
versus female defendants. These factors go to show that although females are
favoured in court, it really means females who display femininity standards
that meet the expectation of society and not just the biological parts of a

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