Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Ann Marie Popp
Drug laws, Drug offenders, Mandatory sentences, Race and sentencing, Sentencing disparity, Sentencing guidelines
National drug policy has contributed to prison population growth in the United States. Blacks and Hispanics are minorities in the population, but are overrepresented as defendants in criminal courts and as inmates in prison. The purpose of this research is to evaluate fairness in federal drug sentencing. The current study uses data compiled by the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) to examine the sentence lengths of federal drug defendants sentenced in 2008. Linear ordinary least squares (OLS) regression is used to model the relationship between race/ethnicity and sentence lengths. The analysis of this research is framed by the focal concerns theory of judicial decision-making, first articulated by Steffensmeier (1980). The current study finds that defendants' race/ethnicity does not influence sentence lengths after legally relevant guideline variables are controlled. Legally relevant variables are the most important predictors of sentence lengths. After discussing the implications of the findings, policy recommendations are proposed.
Barron, L. (2011). Federal Drug Sentencing: An Evaluation of the Consistency, Proportionality, and Fairness within Cases (Master's thesis, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/272