Race and Inequality

Neighborhood Effects on Felony Sentencing

John Wooldredge
Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati

Key Findings

  • Individuals convicted of a felony and from disadvantaged neighborhoods in Ohio were more likely to receive non-suspended prison sentences.
  • This data showed a defendant’s race was found to be unrelated to imprisonment in Ohio.
  • Neighborhood disadvantage was unrelated to sentence length for imprisoned defendants.
  • Data showed that African Americans received significantly shorter terms related to Whites.


In the article, “Neighborhood Effects on Felony Sentencing,” Wooldredge and his co-authors examined the connection between race, disadvantaged neighborhoods, and an individual’s risk for offending. Previous articles have focused on the relationship between race and the risk of offending but did look at ecological connections to offending. To collect their data, the researchers used data from the Ohio state prosecutor’s indictment list over a two-year period. They analyzed data from individuals convicted of felonies that were African American or White and resided in the 24 counties for this study. The researchers focused on areas where criminal defendants resided as opposed to where their crimes are committed to understand ecological factors involved in offending. The results showed that neighborhood conditions where an individual resided were linked with their risk of offending but not with length of time imprisoned. Individuals from disadvantaged areas were more likely to receive non-suspended prison sentences. The results also showed that race was unrelated to an individual’s risk of imprisonment except in terms of sentencing, where African Americans were shown to receive significantly shorter terms when compared to Whites.

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