Probation and Race in the 1980s: A Quantitative Examination of Felonious Rearrests and Minority Threat Theory

Abstract

Black and Latinx persons are overrepresented in the population of people who are incarcerated, on probation and on parole in the United States. Empirical investigations on the breadth and depth of the disparate outcomes for incarcerated Black and Latinx persons remain limited, presenting historical gaps in the understanding of community corrections at different time periods. Taking the position that history repeats itself and that data on racial and ethnic inequalities from the past are as relevant as data in the present, this study examines the relationship between race and community corrections during the 1980s, filling a historical void in the documentation, statistical rigor, and understanding of disproportionate probation outcomes. A nationally representative sample of 12,368 people on probation in the United States during the late 1980s was used to examine Minority Threat Theory, yielding the findings that an individual’s race and ethnicity, as well as the community’s racial and ethnic composition were predictive factors of a probationer being rearrested for a felony charge. The findings suggest that racial and ethnic disparities in community corrections existed almost four decades ago and the crafting of policies that foster a fair community corrections system should look to the past as well as the present when tailoring and implementing community alternatives to incarceration.

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Correspondence to Victor St. John.

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St. John, V. Probation and Race in the 1980s: A Quantitative Examination of Felonious Rearrests and Minority Threat Theory. Race Soc Probl 11, 243–252 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-019-09265-0

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Keywords

  • Race
  • Probation
  • Criminal Justice
  • Community Corrections
  • Minority Groups