Monday, April 16, 2012

Some studies about sentencing disparities....

The usual stuff I post about:


This paper examines 77,236 federal offenders sentenced under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 and concludes the following. First, after controlling for extensive criminological, demographic, and socioeconomic variables, I found that blacks, males, and offenders with low levels of education and income receive substantially longer sentences. Second, disparities are primarily generated by departures from the guidelines, rather than differential sentencing within the guidelines. Departures produce about 55 percent of the
black-white difference and 70 percent of the male-female difference. Third, although black-white disparities occur across offenses, the largest differences are for drug trafficking. The Hispanic-white disparity is generated primarily by those convicted of drug
trafficking and firearm possession/trafficking. Last, blacks and males are also less likely to get no prison term when that option is available; less likely to receive downward departures; and more likely to receive upward adjustments and, conditioned on having a
downward departure, receive smaller reductions than whites and females.[...]

Its primary conclusion is that after including more exhaustive controls than any previous study, large differences in the length of
sentence exist on the basis of race, gender, education, income, and citizenship. These disparities occur in spite of explicit statements in the guidelines that these characteristics should not affect the sentence length.

Second, over half of the unaccounted-for differences are generated by departures from the guidelines, rather than from differential sentencing within the guidelines. This is the first study to decompose the differences in this manner. Third, the differences by race, gender, income, and citizenship exist across offense types. The racial and gender disparities are largest for bank robbery and
drug trafficking. Most of the difference between Hispanics and whites is from two crimes—drug trafficking and firearm possession and trafficking. The educational differences are generated primarily by drug trafficking and are not statistically significant for other offenses.

Fourth, these racial, gender, income, and education disparities occur along many other margins. Blacks and males not only receive longer sentences but also are less likely to receive no prison term when that option is available, more likely to receive upward departures, and less likely to receive downward departures. When downward departures are given, blacks and males receive smaller
adjustments than whites and females. Furthermore, low-income offenders are less likely to receive downward departures and more likely to receive upward departures. When downward departures are given, the poorest offenders receive especially small reductions in their sentences. Similarly, highly educated offenders are more likely to receive downward departures, less likely to receive upward departures, and receive relatively large downward departures. Being a U.S. citizen consistently helps in all sentencing scenarios. Offenders who are citizens receive shorter sentences for most crimes, are less likely to be incarcerated, are more likely to receive downward departures, and typically receive larger downward departures than noncitizens. Previous studies have tested whether individuals of some groups receive longer sentences than those in other groups, but no other study has examined differential sentencing on these other margins.

Pretty good pretty huge study. The most important part seems to be "disparities are primarily generated by departures from the guidelines". What does that mean? Well as for discrimination against men, this means that women would receive sentencing according to the guidelines, while men receive longer sentences. This would suggest that this is sexism against men than the benevolent sexism argument brought forward by some feminists (that women receive lighter sentences due to chivalry). Next one:

Gender Differences in Criminal Sentencing: Do Effects Vary Across Violent, Property, and Drug Offenses? - S. Fernando Rodriguez, Theodore R. Curry, Gang Lee - 2006

In the early 1980s, Candace Kruttschnitt and Donald E. Green (1984:541) wondered whether, compared to males, the leniency typically
accorded females at sentencing might become ‘‘history.’’ However, the potential demise of gender-based preferential treatment has not come to fruition. To the contrary, findings that women receive milder sentences than men continue, with few exceptions, to be robust. For example, extensive literature reviews by Daly and Bordt (1995) and by Steffensmeier, Kramer, and Streifel (1993) stress the strength and consistency of the association between gender and sentencing and its relevance for scholars seeking to understand sentencing outcomes. Furthermore, when compared to other extra-legal factors, such as offender age or race/ethnicity, the influence of offender gender is touted as the most powerful by both Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer (1998) and Spohn and Holleran (2000; see also Daly and Bordt, 1995).[...]

The prediction that females will receive milder sentencing outcomes receives such consistent support from a wide range of studies done since the 1980s, and encompassing many different jurisdictions in the United States, that it may be one of the best established facts regarding criminal justice outcomes. This research shows that the greatest disparity among the sexes occurs at the ‘‘in/out decision’’—whether criminal sentences entail incarceration or some nonincarcerative sanction, such as probation. Research findings typically show that females are between 12 percent and 23 percent less likely than males to receive prison or jail time (see Farnworth and Teske, 1995; Ghali and Chesney-Lind, 1986; Gruhl, Welch, and Spohn, 1984; Johnson, Kennedy, and Shuman, 1987; Mustard, 2001; Nobiling, Spohn, and DeLone, 1998; Spohn, 1999; Spohn and Beichner, 2000; Spohn and Holleran, 2000; Steffensmeier, Kramer, and Streifel, 1993; Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer, 1998; Ulmer, 2000; Wooldredge, 1998; but see Kruttschnitt and Green, 1984). Yet, for those men and women who do receive prison sentences, gender effects, while strong, are not as consistent. Females receive shorter or less severe sentences according to the findings of Bushway and Piehl (2001), Curran (1983), Engen and Gainey (2000), Farnworth and Teske (1995), Mustard (2001), Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer (1998), and Ulmer (2000), but no gender differences in sentence length were observed by Albonetti (1991), Crew (1991), Nobiling, Spohn, and DeLone (1998), Steffensmeier, Kramer, and Streifel (1993), or Wooldredge (1998).

Our analyses employed a large, representative sample of convicted felony offenders in Texas in 1991 in what were then the seven largest metropolitan counties. Overall, the results provide a number of interesting, though somewhat complex, findings. On one
hand, when crimes are analyzed collectively, and consistent with most prior research, we find that men are more likely to receive a prison sentence than women (odds ratios 42.00), and for individuals sentenced to prison, men receive sentences that average 3.22 years longer than do women. [...] For the in/out decisions we analyzed, the odds of incarceration are more than two times higher for men compared to women for property and drug crimes, but no gender differences in incarceration likelihood are observed for violent offenses. [...] Moving to the analyses of sentence length, we again find that the effect of gender on sentencing severity shows considerable variation across crime type; however, this variation is at odds with that found for the in/out decision. Specifically, whereas gender differences at the in/out decision were nonexistent for violent crime, for the sentence-length decision, gender dif-
ferences are greatest for violent offenders. More specifically, male violent offenders receive, on average, an additional 4.49 years on their sentences compared to women, while gender differences for property and drug crime (3.14 and 2.35 years, respectively) are considerably lower. Because the more serious and more masculine crime of violence yields the largest benefit for women, these results are in opposition to the predictions of the selective chivalry and liberation theses, and more in line with previous findings re-
garding the effect of gender on sentencing for different crime types (Farnworth and Teske, 1995; Koons-Witt, 2002; Mustard, 2001; Steffensmeier, Kramer, and Streifel, 1993).

The data surrounding the differences here seem so solid, I might have to retire blogging about it as it seems most thinks worthwhile have been said. And finally, a whole book chapter:

How Do Judges Decide? - SENTENCING DISPARITY AND DISCRIMINATION - A focus on gender - Cassia C. Spohn - 2002

• Of all offenders convicted in U.S. district courts in 2003, 82.8 percent of the males were sentenced to prison but only 57.5 percent of the females. Among offenders convicted of violent crimes, 95.0 percent of the males and 76.4 percent of the females were incarcerated. For these offenses, the average sentence was 90.7 months for men and 42.5 months for women (Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online 2003 N.d., tables 5.20.2003 and 5.21.2000).

• Forty-two percent of the male offenders sentenced by state court judges in 2004 were sentenced to prison, compared with 27 percent of the female offenders. The average maximum prison sentence was 61 months for males and 42 months for females (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics 2007g, tables 2.4 and 2.6).

• There were 3,228 prisoners under sentence of death on December 31, 2006; of these, only 51 were women (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics 2007a, tables 4 and 12).

• Among offenders convicted of felonies in 1994 in Cook County (Chicago), Illinois, 28.3 percent of the females and 63.9 percent of the males were sentenced to prison. The corresponding proportions of
offenders who were incarcerated in Jackson County (Kansas City), Missouri, were 16 percent (females) and 45 percent (males). The figures for Dade County (Miami), Florida, were 60.2 percent (females)
and 69.2 percent (males) (Spohn and Beichner 2000).


We tested these underlying assumptions using data on offenders convicted of felonies in Cook County (Chicago), Illinois, in 1993. To test the assumption that gender differences will disappear when crime seriousness and prior record are held constant, we compared the sentences imposed on male and female
offenders who were convicted of the same offense (possession of drugs with intent to deliver) and who had no prior felony convictions. As shown in Part A of Exhibit 4.5, males were still twice as likely as females to be sentenced to prison; 33.6 percent of the males were incarcerated but only 17.4 percent of the females. The mean prison sentence for men (48.6 months) was also slightly longer than the mean sentence for women (45.0 months). [...]

We used logistic regression to analyze the likelihood of incarceration, controlling for the offender’s gender, the seriousness of the conviction charge (11 different types of offenses), the statutory classification of the conviction charge (Class X, Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, or Class 4 felony), and the offender’s prior criminal record (the number of prior felony convictions and the number of prior prison terms of more than 1 year). We found that gender was a statistically significant predictor of the decision to incarcerate or not. In fact, judges were 2.5 times more likely to sentence male offenders to prison than to sentence female offenders to prison, even when we held these legally relevant factors constant.

We used the results of this analysis to calculate the predicted probability of incarceration for “typical” male and female offenders: offenders who had been convicted of Class 2 offenses, had been convicted of either possession of drugs or possession of drugs with intent to deliver, and had one prior felony conviction but had not previously been imprisoned for more than 1 year. As shown in Part B of Exhibit 4.5, there were large differences in the predicted probabilities of incarceration for males and females convicted of these two types of drug offenses. Nearly two thirds (61.9 percent) of the males convicted of possession with intent were sentenced to prison but only 38.1 percent of the
females. There were similar differences for simple possession: 52.7 percent of the men and 29.5 percent of the women were incarcerated.

These results suggest that gender disparities in sentence severity cannot be attributed to differences between men and women in crime seriousness, prior criminal record, dangerousness, and child care responsibilities. Holding these characteristics constant did not cause the sentence differences to disappear.

There simply was too much data to summarize, so before I come to the conclusion, the part about capitl punishment was interesting:

Williams, Demuth, and Holcomb (2007) used the data collected by David Baldus and his colleagues (i.e., the data used in the “Baldus study” that was at issue in the Supreme Court case of McCleskey v. Kemp) to examine the effect of the victim’s gender on death penalty decisions in Georgia. [...] The authors of this study found that the gender of the victim was a statistically significant predictor of death penalty decisions in Georgia, net of controls for crime seriousness, the offender’s prior record, and other legally relevant factors. Offenders convicted of crimes against females were more than two and a half times more likely to be sentenced to death than offenders convicted of crimes against males (Williams et al. 2007:877). Further analysis revealed an interaction between the gender of the victim and the race of the victim. Although offenders who killed black males faced lower odds of a death sentence than did offenders who killed black females, white males, and white females, the differences were particularly pronounced for those who killed white females. Offenders convicted of murdering white females were more than 14 times more likely to be sentenced to death than were offenders con- victed of murdering black males (Williams et al. 2007:878, table 2).

Similar results were found in Holcomb, Williams, and Demuth’s (2004) study of Ohio death penalty decisions. As shown in Exhibit 4.8, cases with white female victims made up 15.3 percent of all homicides but 35.5 percent of the cases that resulted in a death sentence; conversely, cases with black male victims made up 42.9 percent of all homicides but only 18.8 percent of all death sentences. These differences did not disappear when the authors tested a multivariate model that controlled for the race and age of the offender, the age of the victim, the number of victims, whether a gun was used in the commis- sion of the crime, whether the victim and offender were strangers, and whether the offense involved the commission of another felony. In fact, compared with cases involving white female victims, the odds of receiving a death sentence were 78 percent lower in cases involving a black male victim, 68 percent lower in cases with a white male victim, and 66 percent lower in cases with a black
female victim (Holcomb et al. 2004:892–893). These findings led the authors to conclude that “a central factor in understanding existing racial disparity in death sentences may be the severity with which those who kill white females are treated relative to other gender–race victim combinations” (p. 898).

And finally the conclusion:

There is compelling evidence of gender disparity in sentencing. Women are substantially less likely than men to be sentenced to prison, women who are incarcerated receive significantly shorter prison terms than men, and women make up less than 2 percent of the death row population. There is also evidence that these differences, which do not disappear when crime seriousness, prior criminal record, and other legally relevant factors are taken into consideration, reflect discrimination in favor of women. The fact that studies of sentencing in federal and state courts found a consistent pattern of preferential treatment of female offenders—coupled with the fact that the gender differences uncovered were large—suggests that contemporary judges evaluate female offenders differently than male offenders. There also is evidence that jurors evaluate cases involving female victims, especially white female victims, differently from cases involving male victims: They are more likely to sentence those who kill females to death. Although some judges and researchers claim there are legitimate reasons for treating women differently from men and for treating those who victimize females differently from those who victimize males, these results suggest that gender discrimination in sentencing is not a thing of the past.

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