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Thesis/Dissertation Seminars

Thesis Defense: Don't Do the Crime If You Can't Do a Man's Time: Examining Sentencing Disparities Using Offender Demographics

HPH 409A
March 6, 2018 @ 12:30 PM - 02:30 PM

Announcing the Final Examination of Vanessa Rinker for the degree of Master of Arts in the department of Sociology

Looking back, America has seen its fair share of differences among its population, so it should not come as a shock that sentencing disparities are a severe criminal justice issue in the United States. Each year, thousands of people are sent to Federal prisons where they are likely to receive sentences for crimes they have been convicted of committing. The United States Sentencing Commission publishes these results annually. No matter the number of persons entering the prison system on the federal level, the number of female offenders often remains about the same (8555 in 2000; 9451 in 2007; and 9302 in 2008). While it is illegal to openly discriminate against a defendant and give them a sentence based on his or her demographics, the laws are written in ways where discrimination can still be allowed. The current research examines the relationship between not only gender, but also looks to education, race, age, and the crime committed to explain this gap in the literature. The data for the current research are from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), an annual report comprised of details for every person who entered federal prison in the given year. The current research used data from the year 2016 and includes 67,660 cases. Findings are supportive of previous research. Whether or not a defendant will receive a sentence is influenced by gender, age, race, education, and offense type. Sex, race, and education also affected the length of the sentence received. Unlike previous studies, age did not appear to be significant when determining the length of a sentence.

Committee in Charge: Jay Corzine (Chair), Amy Donley, Amy Reckdenwald