Departures and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines: Departing From the Mandate to Reduce Disparity?

Barbara A. Sharp, University of Maryland at College Park

This study looks at gender differences in departure reasons for federal offenders sentenced under the guidelines established by the United States Sentencing Commission. Offenders convicted of federal crimes may receive downward or upward departures based on mitigating or aggravating circumstances of the crime not covered within the sentencing guidelines themselves. When a federal judge departs outside of the guidelines sentencing range, he must delineate the reasons. Some of the reasons appear to be gendered. For example, a common reason given by federal judges is, "family ties and responsibilities." Both the methodology and findings will be discussed, as well as implications for future sentencing policy.

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Updated 05/20/2006