U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Contextual Influences on the Sentencing of Individuals Convicted of Sexual Crimes

NCJ Number
Sexual Abuse-A Journal of Research and Treatment Volume: 32 Issue: 7 Dated: 2020 Pages: 778-805
Date Published
28 pages

This study examines effects of court and community contextual factors on sentencing outcomes for individuals convicted of sexual crimes using indicators from two perspectives—focal concerns and populist punitiveness.


Sourced from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, the sample includes 9,431 persons convicted of sexual crimes and a precision-matched sample of persons convicted of non-sexual violent crimes for comparison. Based on multilevel hurdle regression models for both incarceration and sentence length decisions, results indicate that individuals convicted of sexual crimes face enhanced sentence severity in judicial districts with smaller courts, increased jail capacity, stronger political competition, and higher religious homogeneity. The results also suggest statistically significant differences between effects for persons convicted of sexual crimes and a matched sample of persons convicted of violent crimes. Overall, results suggest that specific contextual factors have a distinguishable impact on sentencing of individuals convicted of sexual crimes. (Publisher abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2020