In the Furtherance of Injustice, Injustice, or Both? A Multilevel Analysis of Courtroom Context and the Implementation of Three Strikes

Chen, Elsa Y. “In the Furtherance of Injustice, Injustice, or Both? A Multilevel Analysis of Courtroom Context and the Implementation of Three Strikes.” Justice Quarterly Volume 31, Number 2, April 2014, p. 257-286.

30 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2012 Last revised: 28 May 2015

Elsa Y. Chen

Santa Clara University

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

A hierarchical logistic model is used to analyze data on Three Strikes-eligible offenders in California and the counties in which they are sentenced. The analysis finds that discretion is widely exercised by elected prosecutors and judges in the administration of Three Strikes. Discretion functions as a “safety valve” and preserves some sentencing proportionality, but may also allow political concerns to influence sentencing decisions. A more conservative political environment is strongly associated with stricter application of the law. Consistent with racial threat theory, eligible felons are more likely to receive Three Strikes sentences in counties with larger Latino populations. However, the size of the black population has no significant effect. Higher unemployment rates are associated with more stringent application of the law. Prosecutorial and judicial discretion benefits offenders unequally. Controlling for legally relevant factors, black offenders are more likely to receive Three Strikes sentences, while younger ones are less likely.

Keywords: Three Strikes, mandatory minimums, prosecutorial discretion, judicial discretion, racial and ethnic disparities, multilevel methods

Suggested Citation

Chen, Elsa Y., In the Furtherance of Injustice, Injustice, or Both? A Multilevel Analysis of Courtroom Context and the Implementation of Three Strikes (2014). Chen, Elsa Y. “In the Furtherance of Injustice, Injustice, or Both? A Multilevel Analysis of Courtroom Context and the Implementation of Three Strikes.” Justice Quarterly Volume 31, Number 2, April 2014, p. 257-286.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2189511

Elsa Y. Chen (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University ( email )

Department of Political Science
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

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