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Prosecutorial discretion in drug offenses by women in Oklahoma: An exploration of the effect of race/ethnicity and class on charging/sentencing of women in the state of Oklahoma

Smith-Mahdi, Jackquice
Scope and Method of Study: This study was designed as an exploratory comparison and analysis of existing descriptive secondary data collected from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Oklahoma Department of Corrections. However, the primary data for exploring decision analysis was gathered from semi-structured interviews with district attorneys and assistant district attorneys in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The general purpose of this study was to explore how race/ethnicity, gender related attributes, and legal variables influenced the arrest, charge/sentence of women involved in drug related offenses in Oklahoma. The significance of this study is grounded in the understanding that Oklahoma has held the highest national rate for incarcerating women since 1991.
Findings and Conclusions: The secondary portion of this study revealed that when one considers race as a correlation with either legal or extra-legal variables sentencing for African-American women is longer than that of their counter parts. However, as variables both legal and extra-legal were incorporated in an additive regression analysis the primary indicator of sentence length for all women were factors associated with legal issues. On the other hand, the interviews within the primary component of this study suggest that "both" legal and extra-legal variables are significant within the context of the discretionary charging process specified to the district attorney's office. More significant, these interviews illustrate the implication of personal experience and social background at the charging stage.