Individual and contextual influences on sentence lengths: Examining political conservatism

Wilson S. Huang, Mary A. Finn, Barry R. Ruback, Robert R. Friedmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


This study examined the impact of legal, extralegal, and contextual variables on prison sentence lengths for violent felons sentenced in Georgia from 1981 to 1989. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted for all violent crimes and separately for four types of violent crime: murder and manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. Results indicated that the legally relevant factors-seriousness of the crime and number of convictions-had the strongest influence on sentence lengths. Across most violent crimes, male, older, and better-educated offenders received longer sentences than those without such characteristics. Political conservatism had a positive effect on sentence lengths for overall violent crime, robbery, and aggravated assault. Interaction effects for political conservatism and the number of convictions were significant, indicating that sentence length increased disproportionately as a court's conservatism and the felon's number of convictions increased. Findings suggest that political conservatism is an important contextual feature affecting prison sentence length.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-419
Number of pages22
JournalPrison Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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