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Cross-Jurisdictional Disposition Variability Under Sentencing Guidelines: The Example of Equivalent Sex Offenses

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2009 Pages: 351-381
Paula M. Kautt; Katrin Mueller-Johnson
Date Published
September 2009
31 pages
This study examined whether or not differences in design and implementation of the sentencing guidelines of two systems, Pennsylvania and Oregon, influenced the incarceration and sentence length decisions meted out to comparable sex offenders within these jurisdictions.
The findings of this study demonstrated differences between focal concerns system and populist punitiveness systems in terms of likelihood of incarceration and sentence length for comparable offenders. In addition, the predictors for both outcomes differed between the two systems, suggesting that, despite surface similarity, the two sets of guidelines operate quite differently. The results indicate significant differences both between and within guideline systems that change over time and with the introduction of subsequent structural sentencing interventions. The sentencing guidelines of different jurisdictions often have distinct objectives and approaches to sentencing. In this study, two grid-based guideline systems were identified for which data with comparable offenses and of the same timeframe were publicly available: Pennsylvania and Oregon. The study demonstrates how each system respectively possesses populist punitiveness or focal concerns characteristics, making them, despite their cosmetic similarity, qualitatively different kinds of guideline systems. The scope was narrowed to focus on a single sex offense, leading to an examination of the States' own classifications as outlined in their criminal statutes. Tables, appendix, notes, and references