Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology/Criminal Justice


Applied Sociology

Committee Director

Tracy Sohoni

Committee Member

Randy Gainey

Committee Member

Roderick Graham


The purpose of this study is to examine the effect that race and mental health play on sentence length in the United States. Mentally ill people are gradually being confined in prisons across the United States and there is an absence of literature that looks at the interaction of race and mental health in regards to sentencing. The focal concerns perspective provides the theoretical framework that guides this study. Multiple linear regressions were used to examine both state and federal prison inmates to examine the effect race, mental health and other extra-legal factors play on sentence length. Results show that the concepts of focal concerns perspective play no role in sentence length in the federal data. However, in the state data, nine out of the ten the variables used to test this theory were statistically significant. Results of the multiple linear regression show that although there are sentencing disparities in regards to race and mental health separately, the interaction of the two are only significant in the federal data.