Sentencing Outcomes Under Conditions of Weak Sentencing Guidelines: Maryland, 1987-1996

Kim S. Hunt, D.C. Advisory Commission on Sentencing

Most recent research on sentencing outcomes, including the study of racial disparity in sentencing, searches for clues to the times and places in which race/ethnicity, age, and gender affect sentencing outcome. Previous research on Maryland sentencing practice has focused on statewide results with limited sensitivity to local and temporal context. This paper examines the role of race-gender-age factors on sentencing outcomes under conditions of weak sentencing guidelines. In addition to examining sentencing outcomes for offenders with specific race-gender-age features, the study will examine regional and temporal variations along with other possible explanatory factors, such as offense seriousness and prior record. Maryland has weak sentencing guidelines in effect during this period. Given these weak procedural constraints, I look to other procedural and substantive concerns, including the targeting of offenders perceived as presenting a clear threat to the social order (Steffensmeier, et. al., 1998; Smith and Damphouse, 1998), to provide possible explanations for regional and temporal differences in Maryland sentencing outcomes.

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Updated 05/20/2006