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Feb 4 2022

The Legacy of Slavery and Mass Incarceration: Evidence from Felony Case Outcomes

ECE 595 Department Seminar Series

February 4, 2022

11:00 AM - 12:15 PM


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The Legacy of Slavery and Mass Incarceration: Evidence from Felony Case Outcomes

Presenter: Aaron Gottlieb, University of Illinois Chicago

Abstract: One common explanation for mass incarceration is that it is the latest in a series of institutions created to enforce the racial hierarchy in the United States. Despite this perspective’s prominence, it has been rarely tested empirically with extensive quantitative data. In this seminar, an article that begins to fill this gap by examining whether individuals charged with felonies experience worse case outcomes when they are charged in counties that had high rates of slavery in 1860 will be discussed. Using multiple regression models that include state-year fixed effects and account for historical county-level factors and contemporary individual characteristics, we find that a criminal charge in a county with high levels of slavery in 1860 increases the likelihood of pretrial detention, the probability of a sentence of incarceration, and the length of incarceration sentences. These results hold for the full sample and for Black and White individuals separately.

Speaker bio: Aaron Gottlieb, PhD, is an assistant professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois Chicago, as well as a faculty affiliate of the Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research. His research is motivated by the idea that our criminal legal system is far too punitive. As such, his scholarship examines the causes and consequences of criminal legal involvement, as well as the impact of policy and practice changes that would reduce the punitiveness of the criminal legal system. In addition to being published in a wide range of academic journals, Gottlieb’s research has been cited in a number of media outlets, including the New York Times and the Atlantic. In the community, he is active in working towards police accountability through his work on Chicago’s Police Use of Force Work Group and the Empowering Communities for Public Safety Ordinance.

Faculty Host: Inna Partin-Vaisband,


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Date posted

Feb 3, 2022

Date updated

Feb 3, 2022