In this paper, I study a statewide reform that implemented swift and certain sanctions in Kansas and present new empirical evidence on the mechanisms underlying racial disparities in the punishment of probation violations. Although Kansas’s implementation of swift and certain sanctions did not reduce the overall rates of imprisonment and new felony convictions among probationers, I do find that racial disparities in the use of prison decreased substantially after the new probation sanctioning regime was enacted. Prior to the reforms, Black probationers were sent to prison 50 percent more often than non-Black probationers, but rates of imprisonment among Black and non-Black probationers are about equal after the reforms. I explore the potential mechanisms and implications of these findings as well as the possible limitations of the results.
Posted on by Kelly Smith