Racial Inequality and Federal Criminal Courts in the Age of Sessions

Awarded Scholars:
Mona P. Lynch, University of California, Irvine
Project Date:
Dec 2017
Award Amount:

In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed Obama-era criminal justice priorities that aimed to mitigate the racial disparities of the federal “war on drugs.” Sessions’s changes now require prosecutors to aggressively pursue drug, gun, and immigration cases. Social psychologist and criminologist Mona Lynch will examine the impact of the changing prosecutorial policies. The project extends the research in her 2016 RSF book, Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court. Lynch will return to the field and conduct ethnographic observations, in-depth interviews, and case file extraction in the same four districts to assess how legal practices are changing under the new administration’s policies. She will use the U.S. Sentencing Commission's official outcome data to measure changes in caseload characteristics, defendant pool demographics, use of mandatory minimums, and sentence outcomes, nationally and in the four districts.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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