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NCJ Number: 49955 Find in a Library
Title: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT AND SOCIAL SCIENCE
Journal: PUBLIC INTEREST  Issue:27  Dated:(SPRING 1972)  Pages:96-103
Author(s): M A LEVIN
Corporate Author: National Affairs, Inc
United States of America
Date Published: 1972
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: National Affairs, Inc
Washington, DC, 20036
Type: Statistics
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THE SENTENCING OF CONVICTED CRIMINALS TO PRISON OR TO PROBATION IS LARGELY A MATTER OF JUDICIAL DISCRETION. THE CONSEQUENCES OF VARIATIONS IN SENTENCING ON RECIDIVISM ARE EXAMINED.
Abstract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
Index Term(s): Alternatives to institutionalization; California; Juvenile probation; Juvenile probation statistics; Juvenile Recidivism
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=49955

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