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NCJRS Abstract

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  NCJ Number: NCJ 199684   Add to Shopping cart   Find in a Library
  Title: Effect of Gender and Family Status on Downward Departures in Federal Criminal Sentences
  Document URL: PDF 
  Author(s): Amy S. Farrell
  Date Published: 06/2001
  Page Count: 213
  Annotation: This study examined the effectiveness of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, specifically in determining if women were treated differently than men under the Guidelines by virtue of their biology alone and to understand how cultural norms regarding men's and women’s roles in the family affected judicial decisions to sentence defendants above or below the ranges specified in the Guidelines.
  Abstract: In 1984, the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were legislatively established in an effort to limit judicial discretion. The Guidelines were intended to prevent Federal judges from using the sex of a defendant to determine a sentence length and discourage them from considering a number of “gendered” characteristics, such as family responsibilities, during sentencing. However, questions have been raised regarding the stated goals of gender-neutral sentencing and the application of such sentences for individuals whose lives are shaped by gender. In this study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, a statistical analysis was conducted of sentencing data from the United States Sentencing Commission from 1996 to 1997 to explore whether or not women were being treated “equally” with men under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and examine how cultural gender norms continued to influence Federal sentencing decisions. The study was divided into six chapters. The first two chapters provide background materials on the issue of gender disparity in sentencing and examine how the Federal Sentencing Guidelines were designed to solve the problem of “biased” sentencing. The third and fourth chapters address the central question: Are women treated more leniently under the Guidelines than men? To address this question data were used from the United States Sentencing Commission on criminal sentencing from 1996 to 1997. The fifth chapter performs an in-depth examination of how cultural gender norms emerge in the legal construction of family circumstances justifying a departure from the Guidelines. The sixth and final chapter investigates the dilemma of how to apply gender-neutral policies to social problems, such as criminal sentencing, that are directly affected by gender norms. This study uncovered differences in the application of the Guidelines that resulted in continued sentencing disparities between men and women. Women were more likely than men to receive departures from the Guidelines which disproportionately decreased sentence lengths for women. In addition, race was seen as affecting both male and female defendants’ ability to receive particular types of departures. White women and men were more likely to receive downward departures for providing “substantial assistance” to prosecutors than were non-white defendants while non-white men and women were more likely to receive departures from the Guidelines based on traditional mitigating factors, such as responsibilities. By conducting a narrative analysis on 193 Federal sentencing opinions involving extraordinary family circumstances departures between 1989 and 1999, several themes were identified illustrating how socially constructed norms about gender roles in the family shape judicial interpretations of “ordinary” and “extraordinary” family circumstances as they affect sentencing departures. This study draws attention to contradictions between the stated goals of gender-neutral sentencing and the application of such sentences for individuals whose lives are shaped by gender. Tables, appendices (I-VI), and references
  Main Term(s): Federal sentencing guidelines
  Index Term(s): Social conditions ; Home environment ; Sentencing disparity ; Sentencing guidelines ; Sentencing guideline compliance ; Male female offender comparisons ; Gender issues ; Family structure ; NIJ grant-related documents
  Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
US Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
United States of America
  Grant Number: 99-IJ-CX-0064
  Sale Source: Northeastern University
200 Churchill Hall
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States of America
  Type: Report (Study/Research)
  Country: United States of America
  Language: English
  Note: Dataset may be archived by the NIJ Data Resources Program at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data
  To cite this abstract, use the following link:

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