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May 30, 2006

A must-read for legal-process-sentencing junkies

I always enjoy NYU Professor Rachel Barkow scholarly work because, in addition to being a sentencing guru, she bring a fascinating legal process perspective to all the issues she explores.  Consequently, even without having a chance to read her latest work, which is now available here from SSRN, I know I have to add it to my summer reading list.  Co-authored with Kathleen O'Neill, Rachel's latest piece is entitled "Delegating Punitive Power: The Political Economy of Sentencing Commission and Guideline Formation," and here is part of the abstract:

Borrowing from political science and administrative law scholarship and analyzing a data set of American jurisdictions with and without sentencing commissions from 1973 to 2000, this Article explores the political and economic factors that could prompt a legislature to delegate some of its responsibility for setting punishments to a sentencing commission even when the political climate rewards legislators for passing tougher sentencing laws themselves.  We find that various political and economic factors — specifically those factors that are rooted in a concern with the costs of longer sentences and incarceration — play a significant role in predicting when states will adopt sentencing commissions and guidelines.  The relationship between sentencing commissions and costs is most obvious in our findings that corrections as a large percentage of state expenditures and a high incarceration rate are positively correlated with the presence of sentencing commissions.  But a concern with costs also explains some of the statistically significant political variables as well, including the positive relationship between commissions and a narrow partisan margin, elected judges and a Republican House.  We also find that divided government at the state level decreased the possibility of adopting and maintaining sentencing commissions.  We also find relationships with statistical significance between many of our variables and the adoption of sentencing guidelines. A narrow partisan margin, a Republican House, a Democratic governor, elected judges, a high incarceration rate, and corrections as a large percentage of expenditures are positively correlated with the presence of sentencing guidelines.

May 30, 2006 at 05:52 PM | Permalink


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