Portions of this paper were presented to the Midwestern Psychological Association, May, 1983, in Chicago, IL. The author wishes to thank Kathryn Ashworth for help in collecting the experimental data reported and Harry F. Gollob for helpful comments.
Sentencing Disparity: Perforce or Perchance?1
Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 16, Issue 2, pages 150–164, March 1986
How to Cite
McFAtter, R. M. (1986), Sentencing Disparity: Perforce or Perchance?. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16: 150–164. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1986.tb02285.x
- Issue online: 31 JUL 2006
- Version of Record online: 31 JUL 2006
Important sources of variability in sentencing judgments are identified by decomposing these judgments in a Crime × Judge analysis of variance into a Crime main effect (representing consensus) and several forms of disparity. Two systematic forms of disparity are (1) the Judge main effect, reflecting differences in overall harshness or leniency of different judges; and (2) the Crime × Judge interaction, reflecting idiosyncracies—perhaps principled—in the way particular judges view particular crimes. A third unsystematic form of disparity is reflected in variations in how the same judge views the same crime/offender on different occasions, that is, unreliability. Data from an experiment in which state district judges made sentencing decisions about the same crime/offenders on two occasions are presented to illustrate application of the model and obtain disparity estimates for 13 crimes. Results reveal that for most of the crimes disparity can be attributed primarily to simple unreliability over occasions rather than principled disagreements among judges. Implications of these results and the importance of distinguishing different types of disparity are discussed.