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Rules Have Changed--So Proceed with Caution: A Comment on Engen and Gainey's Method for Modeling Sentencing Outcomes Under Guidelines

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 38 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2000 Pages: 1231-1243
Jeffery T. Ulmer
Date Published
November 2000
13 pages
This article examines the research of Rodney Engen and Randy Gainey regarding the quantitative measurement and modeling of sentencing outcomes under sentencing guidelines and urges caution in applying their suggested approach on both methodological and conceptual grounds.
The discussion of Engen and Gainey's research notes that researchers who examine sentencing guidelines have relied on those guidelines’ measures of offense severity and prior record. They argue that the presumptive sentence recommendation itself is a much better tool for measuring the effect of legally prescribed, guideline-relevant influences on sentencing. They use guidelines sentencing data from Washington State to illustrate their point. The present study presents analyses comparing various modeling options, including the approach of Engen and Gainey, using Pennsylvania sentencing data. Findings highlighted both the possibilities and the limitations of Engen and Gainey’s method. The analysis concludes that research should proceed with caution and rest on knowledge of particular guideline systems, sound conceptualization, and theory. Tables and 15 references