Explaining Sentence Severity in Large Urban Counties: A Multilevel Analysis of Contextual and Case-level Factors

Robert R. Weidner, Richard Frase, and Iain Pardoe


This study uses hierarchical logistic modeling to examine the impact of legal, extralegal and contextual variables on the decision to sentence felons to prison in a sample of large urban counties in 1996. None of the four contextual (county-level) variables -- level of crime, unemployment rate, racial composition, and region -- increased the likelihood of a prison sentence, but ten case-level factors, both legal and extralegal, and several macro-micro interaction terms were influential. These results demonstrate the importance of considering smaller geographic units (i.e., counties instead of states) and controlling for case-level factors in research on inter-jurisdictional differences in prison use.

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Last updated: June 28, 2002

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© 2002, Iain Pardoe, Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon

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