The effects of gender, family status, and race on sentencing decisions

Behav Sci Law. 2010 May-Jun;28(3):378-95. doi: 10.1002/bsl.901.


This study sought to determine the effects of family role, gender, and race on judges' sentencing decisions. To assess these effects, factorial surveys were sent to 360 Court of Common Plea judges who presided over criminal court cases in the state. Survey administration resulted in a 51% response rate. The findings indicate that defendants who were depicted as performing caretaker roles had a significantly decreased likelihood of incarceration. Further analysis found that the reduction in likelihood of incarceration for being a caretaker was larger for males than for females. Examination of the interaction of familial role with race found that familial role equally reduced the likelihood of incarceration for black and white females. Familial responsibility, however, resulted in a significantly greater decrease in likelihood of incarceration for black men than for white men.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black People / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Caregivers / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Child
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Decision Making*
  • Employment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Family Characteristics / ethnology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Judicial Role
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting / ethnology
  • Pennsylvania
  • Prisoners / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Control, Informal
  • White People / legislation & jurisprudence*