Defining Sentence Type: Further Evidence Against the Use of the Total Incarceration Variable

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Journal of Research on Crime and Delinquency, Vol: 44, Issue: 1

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Harrington, Michael P.
jail; prison; sentencing; judicial discretion; Other Social and Behavioral Sciences
article description
The effect of legal and extralegal factors on felony sentence outcomes has been widely studied, typically using a total incarceration variable that defines sentence outcomes as incarceration or probation. Research conducted by Holleran and Spohn has called this into question, revealing that factors that affected jail sentences were different than those that affected prison sentences and demonstrating that the conclusions one would draw regarding the influence of extralegal offender characteristics such as race and ethnicity differ depending on the way in which sentence was defined. The authors replicate and extend the research conducted by Holleran and Spohn, using several operational definitions of the decision to incarcerate or not, focusing on sentence outcomes for offenders convicted of felonies in a jurisdiction with an indeterminate sentencing system. Results provide compelling evidence in support of Holleran and Spohn.