Evaluating the impact of prior record on judges' sentencing decisions: A seven-city comparison

Susan Welch, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


There is much agreement among social scientists that the prior criminal records of defendants are important in explaining the sentences given by judges. That being so, it is crucial to control for prior record when examining sentence discrepancies, such as between black and white defendants. However, when examining sentencing patterns, a remarkable variety of indicators has been used to measure prior record. It is very likely that different measures of prior record have different relationships to sentencing. Only fragmentary evidence of these differential relationships has been offered, however. We will add to our knowledge about the efficacy of different measures of prior record by examining numerous measures and analyzing their relationship to sentences levied on black and white defendants. Data from seven cities will be used in the analysis in order to try to understand the variation that might exist in these relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-407
Number of pages19
JournalJustice Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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