Document Type


Publication Date



One of the problems facing the criminal justice system is unwarranted disparity as a result of unbridled discretion. Although disparity, by itself, does not necessarily indicate a problem in the criminal justice system, disparity unwarranted does present a problem. Disparity becomes unwarranted when, controlling for legal factors, extralegal factors such as race/ethnicity, gender, and age influence court processing decisions. The greater the discretion one possesses, the higher the likelihood of unwarranted disparity in one’s decisions (Albonetti, 1991; Meeker, Jesilow, & Aranda, 1992; Bushway & Piehl, 2001). Within the criminal court system, judicial discretion in sentencing has received the most scrutiny.

Copyright Statement

The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 24(4), 2008. SAGE Publications, Inc., All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1177/1043986208319731

Included in

Criminal Law Commons