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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" A Summary of Research

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
17 pages
This research attempts to separate the effects of the Federal mandatory minimum statutes from the Federal sentencing guidelines statutes in determining whether the mandatory minimums are the main contributor to the recent increase in racial disparity of imprisonment and sentence length at the Federal level
The analysis uses 1992 U.S. Sentencing Commission data in examining the separate effects of mandatory minimums and the guidelines on sentencing. In the first step, analyses model the impact of the independent variables, including race, on the two dependent variables (incarceration and sentence length) for the entire 1992 data set. In step two, the 1992 sentencing data set is divided into the subsets of drug, firearms, robbery, and "other" remaining offenses. Each of these sets then undergoes separate analysis. In the third and final stage, the robbery offense subset is divided into those offenses falling under a mandatory minimum offense and those that do not; the firearms offense subset is subdivided into those cases that involve mandatory minimum statute 18USC section 924 and those that do not. Finally, the drug offense subset is divided into four additional subsets, one for each of the three remaining mandatory minimum drug offenses and the fourth composed of any remaining drug offenses. This breakdown enables separation of the effects of the mandatory minimums from those of the guidelines. Findings show that the predictors of sentencing outcomes varied significantly by both offense type and specific statute. 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. For the full report, see NCJ-186196. 20 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000