Sentencing Guidelines, Tis Legislation, and Bargaining Power
35 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2006
Date Written: July 2006
This paper analyzes the influence of political and institutional factors on the enactment of sentencing guidelines and truth-in-sentencing legislation by US states. First, we develop a model of strategic interaction among the judiciary, parole boards and state legislators, to analyze the consequences of these laws for the relative bargaining power of the actors. The model predicts that the enactment of these laws is more likely the greater the divergence in preferences between the legislature and the other actors. We test this hypothesis using a semiparametric proportional hazard model. Consistent with our hypothesis, the enactment of both of these types of legislation is more likely in states that have had a longer history of divided government (in particular, with Republican governors and Democratic legislatures; however, divided government with Democratic governors does not have a significant effect). These results indicate that either conservative judges and parole boards are less likely to oppose these laws, or that legislatures are more interested in constraining conservative judges and parole boards. Our results also suggest that legislatures are more likely to constrain the judiciary by enacting sentencing guidelines when the guidelines will have a substantial influence on incarceration lengths because discretionary parole has either been abolished or restricted. Truth-in-sentencing laws, which severely limit early release from prison, are also more likely to be passed when states have already abolished discretionary parole.
Keywords: criminal law, judges, sentencing guidelines
JEL Classification: K00, K14, C7, C14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation