skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 204024 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Judges and Discrimination: Assessing the Theory and Practice of Criminal Sentencing
Author(s): Charles W. Ostrom; Brian J. Ostrom; Matthew Kleiman
Corporate Author: Michigan Dept of Corrections
United States of America

Michigan Sentencing Cmssn
United States of America
Date Published: October 2003
Page Count: 364
Sponsoring Agency: Michigan Dept of Corrections
Lansing, MI 48913
Michigan Sentencing Cmssn
Lansing, MI 48909
National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
Washington, DC 20531
NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Grant Number: 98-CE-VX-0008
Sale Source: NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America

Michigan Sentencing Cmssn
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This report provides a theoretical and empirical study of the sentencing process addressing three challenges: the extent to which judges are consistent in their sentencing behavior, the degree to which there is evidence of discrimination in felony sentencing, and the magnitude of the local variation in sentencing within a given State.
Abstract: Large gaps are acknowledged in the understanding of how punishments are tailored across the full range of sentencing options. Even though State sentencing statutes and sentencing structures limit a judge’s freedom in their choice of sentencing, there is a need to come to terms with judicial discretion and how it is put into practice. A comprehensive assessment of sentencing outcomes in present day America must integrate understanding of the sentencing proclivities of individual judges with the way discretion is shaped and controlled. The interest on sentencing outcomes focuses on judicial discretion, as well as on the disparity of sentences and the degree of variation in sentencing within a State. The scope and content of this report, supported by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice is guided by the empirical study of criminal sentencing, specifically judicial discretion, sentence disparity, and State sentence variation. Each chapter in this report will address a distinct issue in sentencing literature, formulate a theoretical approach, and use a blend of analytic techniques to provide an answer. The ultimate goal is to develop and empirically test a comprehensive model of the sentencing process. The analysis of the judicial sentencing process proceeds in three sections: sentencing in theory, sentencing in practice, and prospects for reform. It begins by reviewing cybernetic/structural organization theory, attribution theory, social context/worlds theory, and personal construct theory, thereby identifying the fundamental elements shaping the judicial sentencing decision in chapter 2. In chapter 3 the sentence type decision is characterized using five distinct categories. Chapter 4 develops a measure of the sentence severity dependent variable for the prison-type decision. In chapter 5, data will be presented and will operationalize the relevant offender characteristics identified in chapter 2 into a set of independent variables to use in both the model of sentence type and of sentence severity. Chapters 6, 7 and 8 will evaluate the model of sentencing empirically. Specifically, chapter 6 empirically evaluates the sentence type model; chapter 7 explores the methodology of estimating sentence severity models; and chapter 8 conducts a comparative statistics analysis of the two models. Lastly, chapter 9 builds a sentencing guidelines system consistent with the theory developed in the first eight chapters. The system is built in a way that enables policymakers to forecast accurately the short and long term consequences of any changes in the system. The intent has been to illustrate each aspect of the analysis through a comprehensive study of sentencing outcomes in Michigan. It is believed that the project makes four fundamental contributions to the study of sentencing in the United States: theoretical, measurement, methodological, and substantive. The argument throughout is that effective sentencing reform has a greater likelihood of success if firmly grounded in both theory and realities of sentencing in the United States. Seven recommendations are presented and discussed. Tables, appendices, and references
Main Term(s): Sentencing/Sanctions
Index Term(s): Court reform; Judicial decisions; Judicial discretion; NIJ grant-related documents; Sentence effectiveness; Sentence review; Sentencing disparity; Sentencing guidelines; Sentencing reform; Sentencing statistics
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:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.