Sentencing in context: A multilevel analysis

Jeffery T. Ulmer, Brian Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

371 Scopus citations


Criminal sentencing is, along with arresting and prosecuting, among the most important of formal social control decisions. In this study we use hierarchical modeling to test hypotheses about contextual level influences and cross level interaction effects on local court decisions. Most of the explanatory "action," our analysis shows, is at the individual case level in criminal sentencing. We also find evidence that local contextual features - such as court organizational culture, court caseload pressure, and racial and ethnic composition - affect sentencing outcomes, either directly or in interaction with individual factors. We conclude by discussing theoretical implications of our findings, and how our study points out some dilemmas among civil rights, local autonomy and organizational realities of criminal courts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-178
Number of pages42
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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