Split Sentencing and the Effects of Gender and Offense Type



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Research focusing on the gender effect in sentencing outcomes has emphasized the disparity in the sentencing of female and male defendants. With the drastic increase in the rate of female imprisonment following the changes in sentencing legislation during the 1980s, the leniency in sentencing extended to females has become notable in both the in/out and sentencing length decisions, net of extralegal and legal variables. While current literature has mainly focused on this disparity across traditional sentencing outcomes, the gender effect has been examined to a lesser extent in the application of alternative sanctions. Split sentencing—an alternative sanction offered in the state of Florida per the sentencing guidelines—has been especially understudied with only one study to date assessing the effects of age, gender, and race/ethnicity on receiving this alternative sanction. Additionally, no study to date has analyzed how the gender effect is moderated by offense type in the assignment of a split sentence as anticipated by the chivalry/paternalism, the evil woman, and the liberation hypothesis. Using data on felony cases sentenced in Florida circuit courts, this study examines the gender effect in the extension of a split sentence, and how it is moderated by offense type as predicted by the above mentioned theories. Results from the binary logistic regression and multiplicative interaction terms reveal that the gender effect persists across split sentencing outcomes in which females are more likely than their male counterparts to receive this sentence. However, the findings also indicate that the gender effect is only observable in the punishment of property and violent offenses, which was not anticipated by the evil woman hypothesis. Support was found for the chivalry/paternalism hypothesis and partial support for the liberation hypothesis. Policy implications for revisitation of the current sentencing guidelines are discussed, as well as limitations and directions for future research.



Felony cases sentenced in Florida circuit courts