The Social and Political Context of Sentencing Disparities: An Application of HLM to Federal Sentencing Practices

Terance D. Miethe, University of Nevada - Las Vegas
Clayton Mosher, Washington State University, Vancouver
Wendy C. Regoeczi, Cleveland State University

ABSTRACT
Research on sentencing has increasingly examined the social and political context that underlies criminal sentencing practices. Using data over the 1990s from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Commission(FSGC), the current study extends this research tradition by examining the nature and magnitude of racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing practices across different contexts. State level data that are indicative of different political ideologies and various types of social threat are merged with FSGC data to determine whether sentencing disparities in the likelihood of a prison sentence, length of confinement, and the use of sentencing departures are accounted for by aspects of the wider socio-political context in which these decisions are made. The results of this study are then discussed in terms of their implications for future research on sentencing and its social context.

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Updated 05/20/2006