Equality: Racial and Class Disparities in State-Imposed Punishment

  • William C. HeffernanEmail author
Part of the Critical Criminological Perspectives book series (CCRP)


Even if the penal reforms proposed in the previous chapter were adopted, the question would remain whether they are imposed in an unbiased way. This question takes on special urgency given the fact that criminal defendants are disproportionately African-American and also disproportionately poor. The Court has partially addressed this by holding that indigent defendants charged with felonies and serious misdemeanors are constitutionally entitled to state-appointed counsel. It has declined to go further, however. In particular, it has held that the Constitution does not require appointed counsel for all criminal defendants. And it has declined to place address compelling evidence of racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty. This final chapter considers both issues. Indigence may never serve as a barrier to representation by counsel in criminal cases. Moreover, juror and prosecutorial discretion must be limited to maximize the risk of bias when imposing punishment.


Baldus, David Bias Constitution (American) Class Criminal justice Discretion Equal treatment Justice Mass incarceration Race Retail vs. wholesale approaches to criminal justice State 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeNew YorkUSA

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