Document Type



Master of Arts in Forensic and Legal Psychology

Thesis Committee Chair: Dr. Matt Zaitchik


Defendant race and ethnicity impact sentencing length decisions, leading to discrimination in the criminal justice system. Aspects of the pretrial process that strongly correlate with a defendant’s socioeconomic status, the use of cash bail, may also influence sentencing length, given the negative stereotypes about individuals of lower socioeconomic statuses. Relatively few studies have explored the impact of cash bail use on sentencing decisions or sought to understand why use of cash bail might influence these decisions. The current study investigates the impact of defendant ability to meet bail (yes v. no) on judgments of sentence length and dangerousness within the context of defendant race (White v. Black v. Hispanic v. not identified) and the construct of attributional complexity (AC). Overall, there were significant differences in sentence length for both High and Low AC jurors. Importantly, Low AC jurors gave White defendants who made bail the least amount of jail time compared to Black, Hispanic, and not identified who made bail. Results are discussed as jurors’ ability to consider multiple causes of behavior within the context of race and bail.