A Hierarchial Analysis of National Trends in Sentencing of Rape Offenders

Christopher D. Maxwell, Michigan State University
Amanda L. Robinson, Michigan State University
Lori Post, Michigan State University

ABSTRACT
Current research on the criminal justice system's response to rape is nearly ten years old. Furthermore, many methodological problems exist within past research that makes it difficult to accurately compare findings across studies. This paper will address both gaps in the research on the criminal justice response to sexual assault, particularly in regards to how the system sanctions rapists. This paper will present analysis of ten years of data from a national representative sample of convicted felony offenders to address several questions that continue to surround the practice of sentencing rapists. First, we will describe the extent to which males convicted for rape are sentenced differently than other male-violent-felons; empirical research into this issue would provide an important test of the "leniency hypothesis." Second, we will identify differences and patterns that exist between states in their application of sexual assault laws as they pertain to sentencing rapists. Finally, using hierarchical linear modeling, we will assess the extent to which individual offender charaacteristics and state level characteristics account for type and the length of sentence for rape. We will also explore the extent to which these two sets of factors interact with time.

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Updated 05/20/2006