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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200044 Find in a Library
Title: Impact of "Strikes" in Sentencing Decisions: Punishment for Only Some Habitual Offenders
Journal: Criminal Justice Policy Review  Volume:14  Issue:1  Dated:March 2003  Pages:106-127
Author(s): Nancy Rodriguez
Editor(s): Nanci Koser Wilson
Date Published: March 2003
Page Count: 20
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined the creation of the State of Washington’s Persistent Offender Accountability Act, a “three strikes” law enacted in 1993, and focuses on how the sentencing process of habitual felons in the State of Washington has been impacted by strike offenses.
Abstract: As criminal offenders continue to be sentenced under policies intended to reduce crime and reduce victimization, public policymakers and criminal justice officials are learning about the impact of these sentencing mechanisms. The enactment of the three strikes and habitual offender laws are specifically directed at incapacitating serious, violent offenders. This study set out to examine the relationship between specific dimensions of prior record and the sentencing process of offenders who have been sentenced under Washington State’s Habitual Offender Accountability Act of 1993. The study examined how criminal record and prior strike offenses impacted sentencing decisions in person, property, sex, and drug cases. The study discussed the role that different legal variables have in future sentencing research. The data for the study were obtained from the State of Washington Sentencing Guidelines Commission, consisting of all convictions from July 1993 through June 1997 and involving either the sentencing of a strike offense or the sentencing of a nonstrike felony offense by an offender who had at least one strike. Findings on the direct effects of legal variables show that judges imposed more severe sentences to offenders convicted of strike offenses such as murder/manslaughter, assault, and sex offenses. Yet, judges sentenced offenders convicted of less serious offenses just as severely. In addition, findings reveal that certain strike offenses received less severe sanctions and findings on prior records indicate that judges imposed lengthier sentences to offenders with more serious criminal histories. The findings demonstrate the importance of capturing how legal variables impact the sentencing process of offenders sentenced under persistent offender laws. Findings show differences in sentence length not only between but also within offense types. The results indicate the need for additional research on the different components of a criminal history record with findings showing that sentence length decisions are influenced by a criminal history record and by the interaction between prior history and offense type. Tables, appendix, and references
Main Term(s): Sentencing/Sanctions
Index Term(s): Criminal histories; Habitual offenders; Indeterminate sentences; Judges; Judicial decisions; Judicial discretion; Sentence effectiveness; Sentencing disparity; Sentencing reform; Three Strikes Laws; Washington
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