Research Proposal: Reducing Gender & Racial Disparity In Corrections

The persisting gender and racial disparity in the contemporary penitentiary system needs profound changes and the current research aims at the revelation of effective ways to reduce the disparity related to gender and race of inmates and their position in the penitentiary system. To meet this goal, the current study will conduct the in-depth analysis of persisting disparities in corrections on the ground of gender and race and suggest possible solutions to close existing gaps associated with gender or race of inmates.

Literature review

Today, many researchers point out that the gender and racial disparity persists in the length of sentences received by offenders depending on their gender and race. In this regard, males normally receive longer terms in prison compared to women (Hayward, 2004).

As for the racial disparity, researchers (Pope, Lovell, & Brandl, 2013) point out that African Americans and non-white offenders tend to receive longer terms compared to white offenders for the same crimes they commit.

In addition, researchers (Schram & Tibbetts, 2013) point out that the penitentiary system is male-oriented that raises the problem of the adaptation of corrections technically and culturally to female needs.

Furthermore, some researchers (Scheck, Neufeld, & Dwyer, 2000) raise the problem of the prevalence of white police officers working in the penitentiary system, who guard predominantly non-white inmates that creates the ground for racism, racial inequality, discrimination or even offense from the part of police officers.

In addition, some researchers (Meissner & Kassin, 2004) raise the problem of complex interracial relations within the prison population which may be accompanied by conflicts between inmates belonging to different racial groups.

Therefore, the general problem that persist in the contemporary criminal justice and penitentiary system is the problem that the management of the system and its worldview is predominantly white and male-oriented that leads to the situation, when male and non-white offenders receive longer terms in prison and face the higher risk of discrimination, whereas the deep-rooted racism raises the problem of interracial relations within the penitentiary system between guards and inmates as well as between inmates representing different racial groups (Siegel, 2013).

Methodology

Studies dedicated to the problem of gender and racial disparity in the criminal justice or penitentiary system normally involve the use of qualitative or quantitative analysis. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. Qualitative methods help to reveal the essence of the studied issue and obtain views of key stakeholders on the problem. As for the quantitative methods of analysis, they help to identify key trends in the development of the contemporary criminal justice or penitentiary system. For instance, the share of the non-white population, the share of male/female population, the length of terms of different groups within the prison population, and other relevant information can help to uncover what is actually going on in the criminal justice and penitentiary system.

Qualitative methods that may be used in the course of the study are interviews, questionnaires, surveys, focus groups. These methods also have their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, interviews may be too subjective and need the accurate and objective assessment and analysis of participants’ responses.

As for quantitative methods of analysis they are quite effective but they should match the goal of the study. For instance, in terms of the current study the revelation of the discrimination of certain groups may be achieved through the revelation of the direct correlation between the lengths of sentences and gender or race of inmates. However, such quantitative methods do not uncover details of the crime committed by offenders that may be quite substantial, when offenders receive their sentences in courts. Therefore, the statistical analysis may be too superficial, although it may uncover the general trend, for instance, the trend to the large share of the non-white or male population in the prison population nationwide or in the target area.

The methodology of the proposed study will involve the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis. Such a combination will allow obtaining accurate information that will help to respond on the main research questions, concerning the current situation with the gender and racial disparity in corrections and effective ways of reducing the existing disparity, if there is any. The use of quantitative methods of analysis should involve the use of statistical information based on available resources related to gender and race of offenders. In this regard, the comparison of sentence length of male and female offenders and the similar comparison among white and non-white offenders will help to find out whether there is any disparity a priori in the penitentiary system since inmates with longer terms are in a disadvantageous position compared to offenders who serve shorter terms. For example, if a non-white male offender receives a longer term for the identical crime committed by the white male offender, then he is likely to come prepared to the racially biased, prejudiced and unfair attitude and treatment in prison during all his term long. In such a way, the quantitative method, i.e. the statistical analysis will help to find out whether there are any disparities between inmates at the moment.

Furthermore, the use of qualitative methods will allow specifying why the gender and racial disparity persists and how this disparity can be eliminated or prevented. In this regard, the use of interviews or questionnaires can be helpful. Alternatively, focus groups may be used in the course of the study. Focus groups will comprise inmates, police officers working in the penitentiary system and professionals working in courts and criminal justice system, for instance judges, attorneys, etc. Focus groups will identify key problems related to gender and racial disparity and suggest possible ways to overcome existing problems and minimize the disparity related to gender or race of inmates.

The proposed study will involve participants representing both genders and different racial groups. The share of male and female participants in the study should be approximately equal. Similarly, the share of participants representing different racial groups should be equal too. At the same time, it is possible to divide all participants into groups depending on their gender and race. For instance, there may be two groups: male and female ones or several groups based on race consisting of both male and females: white group, African American group, Hispanic group, and so on. Participants of the study will be selected randomly but the target sample population that will be involved in the study should include inmates, professionals working in the penitentiary and criminal justice system. In such a way, all participants of the study will know the essence of problems of the contemporary criminal justice and penitentiary system. In such a way, the study will involve the reliable and accurate information from primary sources, i.e. from participants, who are either working or serving their terms in the penitentiary system.

The study will be conducted at the local level, involving participants from one prison and local criminal justice institutions, for instance, court. Even though such approach imposes some limitations but still it is possible to obtain the primary data on the ground of which it will be possible to make first conclusions concerning the racial and gender disparity in corrections. On the ground of these findings, further studies may be conducted to obtain more specific information depending on findings of the proposed study. For instance, the study may reveal the lack of racial disparity and wide racial disparity or vice versa, then further studies should focus on specific issues to find out why the specific disparity exists.

Research plan

The first step in the research is the identification of the research problem that has to be studied and revealed in the course of the research. In terms of the proposed research, the research problem is the gender and racial disparity in corrections. What is meant here is the fact that the current research aims at the revelation of the fact whether there is any gender or racial disparity in corrections. If there is any disparity, the research will go further to identify possible causes and effects of the gender and racial disparity in corrections. The revelation of causes of the disparity is essential for the identification of possible ways to close existing gaps and resolve the problem of gender and racial disparity in the penitentiary system.

The current study will focus on the analysis of the current position of female and male inmates and representatives of racial minorities in prison to find out possible problems which they confront because of their gender or race. On identifying existing disparities, it is possible to find out possible ways to resolve the problem of the gender and racial disparity in corrections.

Final project structure

The final project will consist of the introduction. The introduction chapter of the research project will include the brief description of the problem researched in the study; identification of purposes of the study; the formulation of research questions and hypothesis of the study.

The literature review chapter will contain the analysis of existing studies dedicated to the problem of gender and racial disparity in corrections. In fact, existing studies are dedicated to either gender or racial disparities and the current study will unite these studies to make new findings since there may be certain correlations between gender and race of inmates and their position in the penitentiary system. The analysis of the literature will involve the analysis of secondary resources mainly, i.e. studies conducted by other researchers. At the same time, the use of primary sources, such as police reports; crime and sentences statistics and other relevant primary sources may be used in the course of the study and this information may also be analyzed in the literature review part.

The methodology chapter of the study will involve the description of the sample population selected for the study, the method of the selection of the sample population, demographics and other information relevant to the sample population with detailed description of participants of the study, including ethical issues that may arise in the course of the study and informed consent form signed by participants of the study.

Furthermore, the methodology chapter will also include the detailed description of methods of the study, including how the data were collected, what procedures were used and how the data were processed. In addition, the methodology chapter will include the analysis of limitations of the study and selected methods.

The results and findings chapter will contain the detailed description of findings of the study made in the course of the research. In regard to the proposed study, the findings will be made on the ground of the statistical analysis of the data concerning the prison population, gender, race and length of sentences of inmates that may be obtained from public sources. In addition, results of interviews and questionnaires or the work of the focus group will comprise the core findings which can reveal the depth of the problem of the gender and racial disparity in corrections. At the same time, these findings will give implications to possible solution of the problem of the gender and racial disparity in corrections which is one of the main purposes of the current study.

The discussion part will contain the discussion of findings of the study. In this chapter, the information obtained in the course of the study may be compared to findings of other researchers. In all probability, the study will prove that the gender and racial disparity will persist but, unlike previous studies which focused on either gender or racial disparity only, the current study will also show whether there is any correlation between gender and race of inmates and their disparity in corrections. These findings may be novice and, therefore very important for the criminal justice and penitentiary system as well as policy makers.

The final chapter of the research project will include the conclusion and implications for further studies. The proposed study focuses on new aspects of the problem of disparity in corrections. Therefore, findings of the proposed study may be important for the penitentiary system and open new perspectives for further studies.

Conclusion

Thus, the proposed research focuses on the study of the problem of disparity related to gender and race in the contemporary penitentiary system. The proposed study will involve the use of qualitative and quantitative methods and is expected to give implications for further studies in this field.

 

References:

Hayward, K. J. (2004). City Limits: Crime, Consumerism and the Urban Experience. New York: Routledge.

Meissner, C.A. and Kassin, S.M. (2004) “You’re guilty, so just confess!” Cognitive and behavioral confirmation biases in the interrogation room”, in D. Lassiter (ed.) Interrogations, Confessions, and Entrapment. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

Pope, C., Lovell, R. and Brandl, S. (2013). Voices From the Field: Readings in Criminal Justice Research. New York: Cengage Learning.

Scheck, B., Neufeld, P. and Dwyer, J. (2000) Actual Innocence. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Schram, P.J. and S.G. Tibbetts. (2013). Introduction to Criminology: Why Do They Do It? New York: Sage Publications Inc.

Siegel, L. J. (2013). Criminology, 8th edition. New York: Thomson-Wadsworth.

 

 

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