Criminal justice in rural and urban communities: A study of the bureaucratization of justice

John Hagan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


This paper inquires into the effects of urbanization and bureaucratization on one type of institutionalized decision-making: Judicial sentencing. Theoretical and empirical links between urbanization, bureaucratization, and sentencing are reviewed. Then, two data sets from a Canadian province (Alberta) are analyzed: (1) 507 questionnaires based on presentence reports completed in all provincial probation departments, and (2) 974 offenders admitted to the five major provincial prisons. The analysis is built on comparisons of sentencing patterns for North American Indians and whites in urban and rural communities. The results reveal that probation officers in rural jurisdictions, as contrasted with those in urban communities, sentence Indians severely, without the justification of correlated legal variables. In addition, Indians are more likely to be sent to jail in default of fine payments in rural, than in urban communities. The implications of these findings for an understanding of the bureaucratization of criminal justice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-612
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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