Examining the prevalence and correlates of a ‘senior citizen discount’ in US federal courts

Weston J. Morrow, Samuel G. Vickovic, Henry Fradella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Few studies focus on age as a factor influencing judicial decision-making, in spite of the widespread use of age as a control variable. Although the limited research to have done so is inconsistent, most scholars agree that age may be race- and/or gender-graded in a manner that produces more severe sentences for certain race–gender–age combinations, especially for young males who are Black or Latino. Less consensus exists with regard to whether older defendants are granted more leniency in the sentencing process and, if so, if the effects of older age are also race- and/or gender-graded. The present study examines this question by examining data from the United States Sentencing Commission. The data presented reveal three noteworthy findings. First, a ‘senior citizen discount’ exists insofar as judges afford more leniency in sentencing to older offenders than their younger counterparts. Second, compared to older males, older females were treated with greater leniency by judges. Finally, whereas Latinos 60 and over were treated with greater severity at the stage of incarceration compared to similarly situated Whites, Blacks received shorter sentence lengths on average. These results are analyzed within the framework of the focal concerns perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-386
Number of pages25
JournalCriminal Justice Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 20 2014


  • age
  • focal concerns
  • gender
  • race
  • sentencing disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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