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Separating and Estimating the Effects of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and the Federal Mandatory "Minimums": Isolating the Sources of Racial Disparity

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
611 pages

This study examines the separate impacts of Federal sentencing guidelines and Federal mandatory minimum statutes in reducing sentencing disparity, particularly disparity due to extralegal factors such as the race of the offender.


The research strategy entailed the partitioning and analysis of the 1992 U.S. Sentencing Commission's sentencing data, first by specific offense type and then by specific mandatory minimum statute. The intent of this design was to determine whether or not there are differences in the sentences meted out under mandatory minimum statutes compared to guideline statutes. Findings support the two hypotheses that the significant predictors of imprisonment will vary significantly by offense type and specific statute. Findings also support the hypothesis that defendant race is a significant predictor of sentence length but not of incarceration in the general offense model. The hypothesis that race and other extralegal factors would be stronger predictors of sentence outcomes in mandatory-minimum than in guideline cases, however, was refuted by the findings. Partial support was found for the hypothesis that predicted the effect of race would be greater for mandatory minimum drug offenses than for other mandatory minimums. Extensive tabular data and 200 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000