Date of Award

8-9-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Criminology

First Advisor

John Lewis, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dennis Giever, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Alex Heckert, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Daniel Lee, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

David Myers, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study assessed the effectiveness of the determinate sentencing movement for drug offenders in a southwestern county in Pennsylvania. Determinate sentencing practices seek to reduce unwarranted, unwanted disparity and punish like offenders similarly. According to state and federal legislation, factors such as seriousness of present offense and prior record are variables that are considered in order to achieve uniformity and consistency when administering punishments. Factors such as age, race, and gender should not influence sentence outcome with the determinate sentencing practices in place. If it was discovered that legally irrelevant variables significantly influence sentence outcomes, then it might suggest bias or discrimination is taking place, despite efforts to control for these injustices. To assess the efficacy of the determinate sentencing philosophy and the sentencing structure to follow, this study employed both quantitative and qualitative methodologies for purposes of analysis and discussion. Using logistical regression and ordinary least squares (OLS) regression, legally relevant and legally irrelevant variables were analyzed to determine their effects on the dependent variables (decision to incarcerate and sentence length). In addition to a quantitative analysis, a qualitative approach was utilized in order to assess professional accounts and opinions pertaining to the strengths and limitations of a determinate sentencing philosophy and approach in their respective daily routines. A dual methodology complimented this study by building upon the existing research concerning determinate sentencing practices and drug offenses and by filling in potential gaps in the literature not previously considered.

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