Racial composition, sentencing reforms, and rates of incarceration, 1970-1980

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Rates of incarceration in state prisons increased dramatically between 1970 and 1980, which was accompanied by greater racial disproportionality. This research examines the extent to which these trends may have been due to sentencing reforms during the decade, specifically determinate and mandatory sentencing. No evidence is found to support either hypothesis. Increases in the rate of incarceration were determined by the percentage of blacks in a state, the state's population size, the percentage of the population aged 18-29, and crime rates. Changes in the race specific rates were largely a function of the same variables, although certain effects varied by race. Estimates are made of the contribution by these differential effects to increased racial disproportionality over the decade. © 1985 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.