Measuring Interjudge Sentencing Disparity: Before and after the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Posted: 27 Sep 1999

See all articles by James M. Anderson

James M. Anderson

Federal Public Defender Training Group

Jeffrey R. Kling

Government of the United States of America - Congressional Budget Office (CBO); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kate Stith

Yale University - Law School

Abstract

This paper evaluates the impact of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines on interjudge sentencing disparity, which is defined as the differences in average nominal prison sentence lengths for comparable caseloads assigned to different judges. This disparity is measured as the dispersion of a random effect in a zero-inflated negative binomial model. The results show that the expected difference between two typical judges in the average sentence length was about 17 percent (or 4.9 months) in 1986-87 prior to the Guidelines and fell to about 11 percent (or 3.9 months) in 1988-93 during the early years of the Guidelines. We have not sought to measure the effect of parole in the pre-Guidelines period, other sources of disparity such as prosecutorial discretion, or the proportionality of punishment under the Guidelines as compared with the pre-Guidelines era.

Suggested Citation

Anderson, James M. and Kling, Jeffrey and Stith, Kate, Measuring Interjudge Sentencing Disparity: Before and after the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Journal of Law & Economics, Vol. 42, Pp. 271-307, 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=182832

James M. Anderson

Federal Public Defender Training Group ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

Jeffrey Kling

Government of the United States of America - Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ( email )

Ford House Office Building
2nd & D Streets, SW
Washington, DC 20515-6925
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Kate Stith (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-4835 (Phone)

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