Sentencing Data and the Focal Concerns Perspective--a Research Note

Sean Maddan, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Richard D. Hartley, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Cassia Spohn, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Although several theoretical perspective shave been used to study judicial discretion in the sentencing process, the focal concerns perspective has recently become one of the dominant theoretical frameworks used in the sentencing literature. The original work on focal concerns in sentencing revolved around the treatment of female defendants; this perspective has been expanded to include race and ethnicity as well. This paper examines prior sentencing studies, primarily from Pennsylvania data, that have tested the focal concerns theory in relation to race and ethnicity. This research further explores the focal concerns perspective with data provided by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in an effort to test the focal concerns perspective utilizing both a more inclusive and a more parsimonious analytic model.

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Updated 05/20/2006