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Measuring Interjedge Sentencing Disparity: Before and After the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

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  • Anderson, James M
  • Kling, Jeffrey R
  • Stith, Kate

Abstract

This paper evaluates the impact of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines on interjudge sentencing disparity, which is defined as the differences in average nominal prison sentence lengths for comparable caseloads assigned to different judges. This disparity is measured as the dispersion of a random effect in a zero-inflated negative binomial model. The results show that the expected difference between two typical judges in the average sentence length was about 17 percent (or 4.9 months) in 1986-87 prior to the Guidelines and fell to about 11 percent (or 3.9 months) in 1988-93 during the early years of the Guidelines. We have not sought to measure the effect of parole in the pre-Guidelines period, other sources of disparity such as prosecutorial discretion, or the proportionality of punishment under the Guidelines as compared with the pre-Guidelines era. Copyright 1999 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Anderson, James M & Kling, Jeffrey R & Stith, Kate, 1999. "Measuring Interjedge Sentencing Disparity: Before and After the Federal Sentencing Guidelines," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 271-307, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:42:y:1999:i:1:p:271-307
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/467426
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    2. Thomas J. Miceli, 2008. "Criminal Sentencing Guidelines And Judicial Discretion," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(2), pages 207-215, April.
    3. Chen, Daniel L. & Prescott, J.J., 2016. "Implicit Egoism in Sentencing Decisions: First Letter Name Effects with Randomly Assigned Defendants," TSE Working Papers 16-726, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    4. Rafael Di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2013. "Criminal Recidivism after Prison and Electronic Monitoring," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(1), pages 28-73.
    5. Jeffrey R. Kling, 2006. "Incarceration Length, Employment, and Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 863-876, June.
    6. Shepherd, Joanna M, 2002. "Police, Prosecutors, Criminals, and Determinate Sentencing: The Truth about Truth-in-Sentencing Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 509-534, October.
    7. Joshua B. Fischman & Max M. Schanzenbach, 2011. "Do Standards of Review Matter? The Case of Federal Criminal Sentencing," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 40(2), pages 405-437.
    8. Todd Sorensen & Supriya Sarnikar & Ronald L. Oaxaca, 2012. "Race and Gender Differences under Federal Sentencing Guidelines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 256-260, May.
    9. Bekkerman, Anton & Gilpin, Gregory A., 2014. "Can equitable punishment be mandated? Estimating impacts of sentencing guidelines on disciplinary disparities," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 51-61.
    10. Max M. Schanzenbach, 2015. "Racial Disparities, Judge Characteristics, and Standards of Review in Sentencing," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 171(1), pages 27-47, March.
    11. Richard T. Boylan, 2004. "Do the Sentencing Guidelines Influence the Retirement Decisions of Federal Judges?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 231-253, January.
    12. Crystal S. Yang, 2015. "Free at Last? Judicial Discretion and Racial Disparities in Federal Sentencing," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 75-111.
    13. Mustard, David B, 2001. "Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Courts," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 285-314, April.
    14. Bhati, Avinash, 2009. "Motivational structures underlying judicial discretion: An information theoretic investigation," MPRA Paper 57834, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Leiter, Andrea & Thöni, Magdalena & Winner, Hannes, 2012. "Evaluating human life using court decisions on damages for pain and suffering," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 119-128.
    16. Freeborn, Beth & Hartmann, Monica, 2009. "Judicial Discretion and Sentencing Behavior," MPRA Paper 13880, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. David S. Abrams & Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2012. "Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 347-383.
    18. Richard T. Boylan, 2012. "The Effect of Punishment Severity on Plea Bargaining," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(3), pages 565-591.
    19. Max Schanzenbach, 2005. "Racial and Sex Disparities in Prison Sentences: The Effect of District-Level Judicial Demographics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 57-92, January.
    20. Jeffrey R. Kling, 2004. "Incarceration Length, Employment, and Earnings," Working Papers 873, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K4 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior
    • C5 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling

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