Towards the Development of a Standardized Focal Concerns Theory of Sentencing

Authored by: Sean Maddan , Richard D. Hartley

Handbook on Punishment Decisions

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138221475
eBook ISBN: 9781315410371
Adobe ISBN:


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The focal concerns perspective has become the dominant theoretical framework used to explain sentencing disparities in judicial decision-making. This perspective has been primarily used to explain differences in sentences meted out to defendants according to race/ethnicity, sex and age. This research answers recent calls to advance theoretical development in this area as well as to better uncover how extra-legal factors may interact with legally relevant variables to impact disparities in sentencing. This study also extends prior research that attempted to more fully conceptualize the focal concerns perspective by utilizing federal sentencing data from 1999 to 2005. It was hypothesized that the extensive nature and scope of federal sentencing data could help in more effectively modeling the concepts associated with the focal concerns perspective. Implications for both the theory and its utilization for empirical research are discussed.

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