Prior theory and research on sentencing oversimplify the role of race, gender and age in judicial decision making. In this article we present a "focal concerns" theory of judicial decision making to frame hypotheses regarding the effects on sentencing of these social statuses, both singly and in combination. Analyzing statewide sentencing outcomes in Pennsylvania for 1989-1992, we find that, net of controls: (1) young black males are sentenced more harshly than any other group, (2) race is most influential in the sentencing of younger rather than older males, (3) the influence of offender's age on sentencing is greater among males than females, and (4) the main effects of race, gender, and age are more modest compared to the very large differences in sentencing outcomes across certain age-race-gender combinations. These findings demonstrate the importance of considering the joint effects of race, gender and age on sentencing, and of using interactive rather than additive models.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||36|
|State||Published - Nov 1998|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine