Sentencing Practices Under the Arkansas Sentencing Guideline Structure
Group: University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Statistical Systems Inc., Arkansas Crime Information Center
Research on differential sentencing practices has become one of the dominant thrusts of academic interest in criminal justice studies. This is mainly because in the last thirty years several reforms have been added to the various sentencing structures in the United States, one of which has been the adoption of guideline based sentencing systems. Although several studies have been conducted regarding the impact of these guidelines, these have come from a limited number of sources. For instance, the majority of this research has been conducted on data collected by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and data collected by the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission. This study attempts to further the discussion on sentencing practices by examining data from a new source, the Arkansas Office of Courts. First, examinations of the judge’s decision to imprison and jail the defendant were conducted using logistic regression. Second, for the individuals who were incarcerated, OLS and negative binomial regression analyses were conducted to explore potential disparities in the length of prison and jail sentences given to offenders respectively. The results of this analysis in Arkansas illustrate striking comparisons to studies that have been conducted on other guideline structures. The legally relevant variables were the greatest predictors of whether or not an offender was sentenced to prison. Extra-legal variables, on the other hand, had negligible effects. Implications for policy are discussed.
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