Date of Award

Spring 2004

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Sociology & Anthropology

Abstract

This study investigates the possibility of discrimination and/or prejudice as it might effect the criminal justice system. The hypotheses tested are that people accused of a crime are initially perceived as criminals based on physical appearance, their occupational level in the community and that they will be perceived as deserving of longer sentences for males than for females. A survey was conducted that included pictures of various people - young, professional, working class, underclass, black, white, male, female, etc., and a brief scenario of a hypothetical crime linked to each picture. The survey asked respondents if they believed the person was guilty or not, and if they were guilty what their sentence should be. In addition, by comparing two Helena negligent homicide cases and a survey conducted for the use of this study, the possible incident of discrimination and/or prejudice is examined. The official data came from many sources, such as Sociology Journals, actual court documents from Lewis and Clark County District Court, Law Reviews, along with several texts related to crime, sentencing, non-participant observation and criminology. The evidence within official data, and results from the survey indicate that there could be disparities or prejudice if the respondents who took the survey were picked to be on a jury. People are not treated equally because of these disparities and prejudices.

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