Interdistrict disparity in sentencing in three U.S. District Courts

Jawjeong Wu, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Research examining disparities in sentencing outcomes under federal sentencing guidelines has focused almost exclusively on aggregate national data. Although these studies contribute considerably to the criminological literature on sentencing disparity, their findings may have masked contextual variation in relation to case processing across jurisdictions. With data from the U.S. District Courts for Minnesota, Nebraska, and Southern Iowa for 1998 through 2000, this article assesses whether interdistrict variations in sentence outcomes exist and whether the factors that affect these outcomes vary across jurisdictions. It also attempts to determine whether disparities in sentence outcomes can be attributed to downward departures. The findings raise questions about the validity of the assumption of uniformity in the federal sentencing process and the use of aggregate data to study federal sentence outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-322
Number of pages33
JournalCrime and Delinquency
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Downward departures
  • Federal sentencing guidelines
  • Sentencing disparity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law


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