Criminal sanctions and victimization work to form a system of disadvantage that perpetuates stratification and poverty.
“A sanction is a kind of response meant to reward or punish behavior. Positive sanctions reward conforming behavior, and negative sanctions punish behavior that violates norms. Positive sanctions increase the likelihood that a particular behavior will continue. For example, teachers provide students with positive sanctions by giving higher grades for better work. Good grades reward students and increase the likelihood that they will want to continue to learn and achieve in school. In contrast, negative sanctions punish behavior with the goal of stopping it. For example, police officers give negative sanctions when ticketing drivers for violating traffic laws. Drivers who violate traffic laws put others in danger. Tickets decrease the likelihood that drivers will take risks on the road. Tickets can help society members remain safe by reducing reckless behavior.” Korgen and Furst, (2012)
Wheelock, D. & Uggen, C. (2006)
Punishment impacts individuals convicted of felonies, as well as their families, peer groups, neighborhoods, and racial group.
“Between 1980 and 1996, the population of drug offenders in state prisons grew by more than 16% annually. Mandatory sentencing laws created racial inequities as Blacks and Hispanics-Latinos have been the majority of those arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses.” Korgen and Furst, (2012)
After controlling for population differences, African Americans are incarcerated approximately seven times as often as Whites.
“For example, a 2009 Pew Social Demographic study revealed that Black and Hispanic Americans have far less confidence than Whites in their local police to effectively and fairly address the violence problem.” Korgen and Furst, (2012)
Variation in criminal punishment is linked to economic deprivation.
As the number of felons and former felons rises, collateral sanctions play an ever-larger role in racial and ethnic stratification, operating as an interconnected system of disadvantage.
“Current research has also begun to disentangle the impact of criminal sanctions from self-selection into crime in other arenas of social life, such as the family, educational attainment, and civic engagement.” Wheelock and Uggen, (2016)
Wheelock, D. & Uggen, C. (2006). Race, poverty and punishment: The impact of criminal sanctions on racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequality (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Working Papers: National Poverty Center. Retrieved from http://npc.umich.edu