Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Do You Receive a Lighter Prison Sentence Because You Are a Woman?

New study. Let us dive into it:

Do You Receive a Lighter Prison Sentence Because You Are a Woman? An Economic Analysis of Federal Criminal Sentencing Guidelines - 2007

The Federal criminal sentencing guidelines struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 required that males and females who commit the same crime and have the same prior criminal record be sentenced equally. Using data obtained from the United States Sentencing Commission’s records, we examine whether there exists any gender-based bias in criminal sentencing decisions. We treat months in prison as a censored variable in order to account for the frequent outcome of no prison time. Additionally, we control for the self-selection of the defendant into guilty pleas through use of an endogenous switching regression model. A new decomposition methodology is employed. Our results indicate that women receive more lenient sentences even after controlling for circumstances such as the severity of the offense and past criminal history.

[...] We …find that women receive prison sentences that average a little over 2 years less than those awarded to men. Even after controlling for circumstances such as the severity of the offense and past criminal history, women receive more lenient sentences. Approximately 9.5 months of the female advantage cannot be explained by gender differences in individual circumstances. In other words if women faced the same sentencing structure as men, women would on average receive 15.4 months less prison time than men rather than 24.9 months less prison time. Most of the gender gap arises from convictions via guilty pleas, which account for the vast majority of the convictions observed in our data. Besides gender, we …nd evidence that judges took into account factors such as family circumstances which are expressly prohibited from consideration when awarding sentences.

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