The it had never been conducted in the state

The
article to be discussed and summarized in this paper is titled
“Gender and Sentencing Outcomes in South Carolina:Examining the
Interactions With Race, Age, and Offense Type.” published in 2014.
This paper will briefly summarize the researched used and the study
done itself. It will try to pin down the purpose of the study and
address the main research questions found in the article. The
findings and results will be analyzed and any limitations of the
research will be discussed.

The
authors of the article researched the criminal sentences handed down
in several states including Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Washington, and
South Carolina; they noted the gender, race, age, and type of crime
of each offender. In this research they found that women were treated
much more leniently than were men, especially in regards to
incarceration. They also found that several factors beyond gender
also played a role in the sentencing severity such as age, race,
marital status, and whether or not the woman is a mother.

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They
also noticed while digging through their data that most other studies
done were done in structured or determinate states, states that have
specific guidelines or rules that cover sentencing. There were very
few studies from unstructured sentencing states, and even fewer
studies that focused on gender. Most research done into sentencing
was trying to determine whether prison growth had slowed since past
sentencing reforms.

Because
of this trend in sentencing research, the authors saw an opportunity.
They had decided to focus their study on sentencing practices in
South Carolina, as this was a state that had no sentencing guidelines
other than federal statutory limits. Not only that but the state’s
location, history of racial relations, and old fashioned view of
women provide a perfect modern environment in which to explore the
ins and outs of sentencing practices based on gender. The second
reason they focused on South Carolina was that all previous studies
in the state had examined one specific court system within the state;
for example drug court, death penalty rulings, or domestic violence
court. There had never been a broad analysis of sentencing practices
across all courts in the state before. The authors believed their
study was important because one like it had never been conducted in
the state before, therefor it filled an existing gap in the research
and could be built upon by others in the future.

Their
specified research objective is to fill in this gap in previous
research they had identified and to discover whether or not officials
in charge of sentencing were influenced by the “stereotypes”
connected to gender, race, age, and type of offense when determining
“appropriate” punishments for offenders. Their study addresses
the question “Do females experience leniency compared to similarly
situated males for both the incarceration and sentence length
decisions?” They did not believe gender alone was the determining
factor in South Carolina, and they examined the interactions between
gender and several other priorly identified independent measures. The
second question they had was “What are the interactive effects of
gender and race on both sentencing outcomes?” The last question
they wanted answered was “What are the interactive effects of
gender and offense types on both sentencing decisions?” They
examined two different theories relating to this, the Chivalry
perspective and the Focal Concerns perspective.

The
chivalry theory is based in traditional gender-roles and expectations
of women. In the chivalry perspective, women are to be protected from
the justice system(especially prison or incarceration). This would
explain the leniency towards women while sentencing, and can even
explain why sometimes women are punished more harshly for severe
crimes. Women are expected to adhere to femininity and be docile,
caring individuals. When a woman acts against these traditional
gender roles, such as if she were to violently murder someone, then
she may be punished on a level with or harsher than men because she
is seen as “evil” for violating the norm.

The
second perspective analyzed is the focal concerns perspective. This
says that because of limited information about and limited time to
sentence Defendants, officials may rely on generalizations and
stereotypes to help make their decision. The three components of this
theory are blameworthiness, dangerousness to society, and practical
consequences. Women are often seen as less to blame for their crimes,
and they are often not seen to be dangerous to their communities.
These two factors, with the added constraint that most women are
caregivers and incarceration would separate mother and child, are the
reasons this perspective gives for leniency on female offenders. The
authors of the study, however, were more interested in applying this
theory to leniency amongst different kinds of women. For example, an
official might feel like a black woman is more dangerous than a white
or asian woman, and so she may end up with a harsher sentence.

The
study then examines past research and statistics to determine whether
race can affect the leniency generally afforded to women during
sentencing. They start by citing several studies (Brennar 2006,
Belknap 2007, Franklin and Fearn 2008, and Rafner 1990) that found
that black women are often treated much more harshly than white women
by the legal system. A study done by Young in 1986 takes the Chivalry
perspectives side, saying that these black women are less likely to
embody the traditional feminine archetype, and so they are seen as
“bad women” and sentenced more harshly. A study by Spohn and
Spears in 1997 found that the racial component did play a part in the
sentencing of men and women, but that it was much less pronounced
with women. Finally, a study by Steffensmeier and Demuth in 2006
founf that females of all races were more likely to receive leniency
when looking at the lengths of their sentences. In summation, the
authors found that their research did not strictly back one side of
the question “Does race affect female sentencing?”, and they
decided that they are both complex factors that must be looked at
together.

The
next factor looked at by the study is whether age, coupled with
gender, had an effect on the sentencing of offenders. Their research
on this topic did not bear as much fruit. It turns out almost all
sentencing research already accounts for age of offenders, so there
was not as large a blindspot. What they found in the research is that
age tended to influence sentencing in a parabolic fashion. Those on
the extreme edges of age (teens, and those over 50) are generally
sentenced more leniently while those in their 20’s and 30’s
received the harshest punishments. The study goes further and states
that when age is coupled with other demographical factors like race
or gender, those who receive the harshest sentences are young,
Hispanic and Black males.

The
last factor looked at by the research team was seriousness and type
of offense. What they found is that the seriousness of the offense
was the best predictor of the harshness of sentencing. Their research
showed that women generally commit fewer and less serious crimes than
men, with women generally being convicted of non-violent, property,
or drug crimes. Their data found that there was much less sentencing
disparity between men and women for violent crimes. They explained
this by way of the chivalry perspective. The women who commit violent
crimes are seen as “bad women” by others because they’ve gone
against traditional feminine roles.

The
researchers collected the data for their study from data collected by
the South Carolina Sentencing Guidelines Commission. This agency was
active from 1982 to 2004, and they assembled data from different
court systems and parole/probation offices. Most importantly, there
was no centralized statewide collection for sentencing data, so the
data from the Commission is the most complete compilation of
sentencing data in the state of South Carolina.

The
dependant variable used for the study and obtained from the data were
the length of the sentence, and the incarceration decision (whether
they went to prison or got probation). The independent variables
consisted of race, gender, age of offender, type and severity of
offense. When they were deciding upon a statistical analysis
approach, the researchers originally thought of the two-part model
and the Heckman selection model. They ultimately threw out the
Heckman model though, as it was more suited to analyzing the
potential outcomes of sentencing instead of the actual outcomes found
in the data. For analysis of these actual outcomes they choose the
two-part model with which to analyze their data.

The
overall sample-size included 22,828 persons convicted of a crime and
sentenced to either probation or jail time. 41% of the sample had
been sentenced to prison, and the average sentence length was 55
months. Using this data they found that 29% of females were sentenced
to prison as opposed to44% of males. The average sentence length for
a woman was 34 months, less than the total average of 55 months and
the average of white males which was 58 months. Females were most
often convicted of fraud and forgery, followed by drug crimes. Men
were most often convicted of drug trafficking, assault, and domestic
abuse. They found that females had a lower probability of being
sentenced to prison than males did, and blacks of both genders had a
moderately higher probability of being incarcerated than their white
counterparts. Interestingly enough, the researchers found that black
females and white males had the same likelihood of being sentenced to
incarceration. They found race and gender together to slightly affect
the probability, but they did not see any indication that age
directly affected sentencing at all.

In
conclusion, the researchers findings seemed to be in line with the
previous literature and research about the topic. Gender and race
together play a role in determining the sentencing of offenders,
while age is not a factor. Severity and offense types shared similar
trends for men and women, meaning as the severity of the crime
increased other factors affect sentencing less. Finally, the
researchers were limited by those characteristics reported on in the
Commission’s original reports. This means they could not test
variables such as number of dependant children, marital status, role
in the family, or plea bargaining; as all of these factors have been
shown to affect sentencing in other cases.

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