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Location, Location, Location: The Impact of Guideline Grid Location on the Value of Sentencing Enhancements

17 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2011  

Shawn D. Bushway

University at Albany

Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: December 2011

Abstract

A long literature provides empirical estimates of differential treatment (by race and other factors) in the criminal justice system, taking sentencing rules as given. This article considers the disparate impact of the rules, rather than their implementation, by providing a quantitative assessment of the Maryland sentencing grid for person offenses using the distribution of defendants on the grid. The basic insight is that movement along the grid itself (either across rows or across columns) is nonlinear in sentence lengths (in both absolute magnitudes and percent terms). As a result, an additional point results in a different increase in the recommended sentence length depending on the other factors that are present. Because the distribution of factors is not random, factors like weapon use that appear to have equal weight in the formula developed by policymakers turn out to have very different weights in practice.

Suggested Citation

Bushway, Shawn D. and Piehl, Anne Morrison, Location, Location, Location: The Impact of Guideline Grid Location on the Value of Sentencing Enhancements (December 2011). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 8, pp. 222-238, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1963627 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-1461.2011.01227.x

Shawn D. Bushway (Contact Author)

University at Albany ( email )

324 Milne Hall
Albany, NY 12222
United States

Anne Morrison Piehl

Rutgers University - Department of Economics ( email )

New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States
(732) 932-7363 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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