Circumventing the penalty for offenders facing mandatory minimums: Revisiting the dynamics of "sympathetic" and "salvageable" offenders

Mario V. Cano, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although sentencing of drug offenders in federal courts is complicated by minimum penalties, which trump the guidelines, the mandatory penalties can be avoided if offenders receive substantial assistance departures. Nagel and Schulhofer contend that substantial assistance departures are used to mitigate the sentences of "sympathetic" and "salvageable" offenders. The authors tested this contention, using data on drug offenders facing mandatory minimum sentences in three U.S. district courts. Results reveal that substantial assistance departures are used to reduce the sentences of certain types of offenders facing mandatory minimum penalties: females, U.S. citizens, employed persons, those with some college, those with dependent children, and those who played a minor or minimal role in the offense. Findings also revealed that racial-ethnic differences among male offenders were masked by the racial-ethnic similarities among female offenders in the full model and that the effect of gender was confined to Black and Hispanic offenders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-332
Number of pages25
JournalCriminal Justice and Behavior
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012

Keywords

  • departures
  • federal sentencing guidelines
  • mandatory minimum penalties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Law

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