Criminal sentencing in nineteenth century Pennsylvania
National Bureau of Economic Research, 2008 - Law - 51 pages
How law is interpreted and enforced at a particular historical moment reflects contemporary social concerns and prejudices. This paper investigates the nature of criminal sentencing in mid-nineteenth-century Pennsylvania. It finds that extralegal factors, namely place of conviction and several personal characteristics, were important determinants of sentence length. The observed disparities in the mid-nineteenth century, however, are different than modern disparities. Instead of longer sentences, African Americans and recent immigrants tended to receive shorter sentences, whereas more affluent offenders received longer sentences. The results are consistent with other interpretations of the period as the "era of the common man."
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African Americans Age squared Albonetti Author's calculations Bigamy Bodenhorn bounded rationality burglary Bushway and Piehl coefficients Counterfeiting County Fixed Effects court Craftsman criminal history criminal justice system criminal sentencing Decades include 1830s defendants Dependent variable Descriptive Registers Determinants of Sentencing dummy variables Eastern State Penitentiary Economics estimated ethnicity excessive sentence excluded category extralegal factors Federal Sentencing Guidelines Forgery/Fraud/Embezzlement German groups immigrants Irish Langbein larceny likelihood function ln(recommended range midpoint Manslaughter months Mulatto Multiple priors murder native-born whites nineteenth century Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania Nonviolent crimes observed Pennsylvania General Assembly percent personal characteristics Philadelphia Pittsburgh Plea Bargaining presumptive sentence prior convictions prison terms private prosecutors probit Professional Proprietor receive an excessive received longer sentences Receiving Stolen recidivism regressions reported in Eastern reported in parentheses Robust standard errors sentence length Sentencing Guidelines Sentencing Outcomes social Sodomy standard errors reported statistical discrimination statutory Table Western Yes County Fixed Yes Yes County Yes Yes Yes