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NCJ Number: 119649 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Symbolic Policy and the Sentencing of Drug Offenders
Journal: Law & Society  Volume:23  Issue:2  Dated:(1989)  Pages:295-315
Author(s): M A Myers
Date Published: 1989
Page Count: 21
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
US Dept of Justice NIJ Pub
Washington, DC 20531
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper examines the sentencing behavior of judges in a context characterized by significant legislative and social change.
Abstract: Data from Georgia are used to explore the ways in which judges accommodated their sentencing practices to a general crusade against drug use and to specific legislation that identified trafficking as criminal, set harsh penalties, and limited judicial discretion. The results suggest that judges selectively mitigated the harshness embodied in legislative pronouncements. The extent of mitigation depended on when sentencing occurred, the offense under consideration, and the offender's race. The impact of legislative changes appeared to be short-lived for the initial incarceration decision and more sustained for outcomes involving imprisonment, but modest for both. The target of symbolic policies, the trafficker, bore the brunt of increased punitiveness, but some spillover severity affected less serious drug offenders. Finally, the effect of race on sentences was influenced by legislative changes. During the height of legislative activity, differential treatment by race increased, further disadvantaging blacks, particularly black traffickers. 45 references, 6 tables. (Author abstract)
Main Term(s): Drug offenders; Sentencing disparity
Index Term(s): Black/African Americans; Georgia (USA); Judicial discretion
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