Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Social Sciences

Committee Chair/Advisor

Rhys Hester

Committee Member

Miao Li

Committee Member

Pierce Greenberg


The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted every facet of the United States justice system, disrupting traditional systems and introducing a new era of virtual alternatives. This unprecedented crisis provides a unique opportunity to empirically study the interplay between health risks, shutdowns, and uncertainty and the foundational value of fair and impartial justice. Using North Carolina sentencing data from 2016-2022, this study delves into the consequences of the pandemic on sentencing outcomes after the virus was declared a national emergency in March 2020. Framed within the Focal Concerns (FC) theory, I expect judges to be more lenient in their sentences during and after the onset of COVID-19. I also expect that racial disparities will increase for incarceration, but will remain unchanged for sentence length. The study will entail both a descriptive and multivariate analysis of sentencing outcomes.



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