The Determinants of Sentencing in Pennsylvania: Do the Characteristics of Judges Matter?

David B. Muhlhausen, The Heritage Foundation

Studies of sentencing in jurisdictions with sentencing guidelines have generally failed to control for the characteristics of judges. A tobit model was used to analyze Pennsylvania sentencing outcomes in 1998. After controlling for the usual legal and extra legal factors, this analysis presents findings on how the judge's race, ethnicity, gender, and time served on the bench affect sentencing outcomes. Female judges delivered sentences that were approximately one month shorter than their male counterparts. The race and ethnicity of judges also had an impact on incarceration sentences. Black judges delivered Incarceration sentences that were more than a month longer than sentences by white judges, while sentence lengths by Hispanic judges did not statistically differ from sentences by white judges. For each additional year on the bench, incarceration sentences by judges decreased slightly. The characteristics of judges also affected the probability of being incarcerated.

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Updated 05/20/2006