Sociology and Corrections


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Publication Date


Community Partner

American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN)


This study examines potential race and gender disparities in sentencing decisions in Blue Earth County, MN courts. Using qualitative field observations and a grounded theory approach, authors observed and analyzed court proceedings. In total, three researchers conducted seven weeks of observations; the final sample consisted of 95 observed court sessions, 50 of them being closed court cases. Results show little discrepancy in gender and charges and sentencing rates. Though there are racial discrepancies in charges that suggest discriminatory policing decisions, the data shows that minority members are being sentenced at a similar rate compared to white defendants. In all cases observed, judges of the Blue Earth County Court System appeared non-biased in sentencing. Qualitative findings conclude that the court follows a strict social script to which judges, prosecutors, bailiffs, defendants, attorneys, and all other parties and individuals involved adhere. We suggest that a major contributing to the ability for the Blue Earth County Court System to make unbiased decisions is Minnesota’s sentencing guideline commission currently in place.

Instructor's Name

Carol L. Glasser, Ph.D.


Applied Sociology (Soc 493/593)

Document Type

Unpublished Research Paper