Tuesday, February 12, 2013

More crime stats - male vs female sentencing

Yesterday's post got me thinking about crime, and I remember a stat I saw somewhere that I had never seen any details on...namely that women tend to get shorter jail sentences than men for the same types of crime.

I took a look around and found that the definitive study on this seems to be this one by David Mustard.  He analyzed over 77,000 convictions and sentences for 41 different types of crime, to see if he could come up with how much race, gender, education and socioeconomic status effected sentences.

It appears that the difference in length of sentences between genders is 5.5 months, when comparing similar crimes overall.  This is an issue because the guidelines specifically prohibit discrimination based on gender.  I got curious though....if the only criteria was "similar crime", could we be losing some detail here?  Interestingly enough Mustard actually did delve in to some additional detail that made a difference.  Apparently sentencing guidelines are set by the USSC guidelines, which require that criminal history and the particular offense be taken in to account, and ban certain characteristics from being taken in to account (gender included).  Everything else that goes in to a crime is fair game, and if a judge overrides the standards, he has to provide a reason why he felt these standards shouldn't apply (an appellate court must agree).  If you exclude those cases where the judge believed there was an extra level of egregiousness, the sentencing difference drops to 1.8 months.  

I thought that was interesting....are judges more likely to see things men did as particularly awful, or are men more likely to add an extra layer of awful to some crimes?

I started wondering what would happen if you got several people to weigh in on particular offenses with gender removed (okay, this wouldn't work for most rape cases....but everything else would likely be fair game).  This could be an interesting comparison study to see where the  differences were coming from.

Also, I can't dig up the study at the moment, but there is some evidence that suggests the more emotional the accused seems to be about what they've done, the lighter the sentence.*  It strikes me that since women generally cry more easily/frequently than men, this might play a part.  Another interesting "is this discrimination against a gender or against a characteristic that is linked to gender" question.   I'd love to see a study that took in to account who cried at their sentencing.

As for me, I'm headed to Salt Lake City in the morning.  I'll try not to get arrested.

*This is why people with Aspberger's tend to get stiffer sentences.

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