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Effect of Gender on the Decision to Incarcerate Before and After the Introduction of Sentencing Guidelines

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 40 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2002 Pages: 297-328
Barbara A. Koons-Witt
Robert J. Bursik Jr.
Date Published
May 2002
32 pages
This article is a study of the impact on sentencing reforms and gender on actual sentencing conducted in Minnesota State Courts.
Research has indicated that gender differences occur in criminal sentencing. Prior research had indicated that female offenders typically received more lenient sentences than their male counterparts. The author explored the impact of changes in sentencing guidelines on this phenomenon and specifically studied information collected from Minnesota. Sentencing patterns from both before and after sentencing reform were reviewed. Three hypotheses were tested. Specifically, 1) female offenders would experience more lenient sentencing than their male counterparts before and after the changes to the sentencing guidelines were adopted; 2) increased sentencing leniency experienced by female offenders both before and after sentencing reform was attributable to the effects of having dependent children; and 3) sentencing leniency experienced by women was expected to be reduced by the use of the new sentencing guidelines. The author concluded that the difference in sentencing patterns for women in the pre and post sentencing era was attributable solely to the difference in handling of women with dependent children. Further, the author found the reduced leniency attributable to the new sentencing guidelines did not disproportionately impact the sentencing of women offenders. 5 tables, 15 notes, 69 references